Fast forward a year and the new service has already helped more than a hundred mums and their families in Portsmouth, with 114 referrals and 409 appointments. On the Isle of Wight, there have been 77 referrals and 299 appointments and in North East Hampshire and Farnham, the team have dealt with 102 referrals, organising 315 appointments. In total, across all three new areas, almost 300 families have received support from the award-winning team, with a total of 1,023 appointments undertaken.
Islander Alexandra is one such mum who has been supported by the new service. She explained: “The new service has helped me cope and feel empowered and has taught me so much about myself. In my pregnancy I chose not to take medication, and without the perinatal service in place this would have been near on impossible.”
Rebecca Thresher (32) from Portsmouth is another mum who has been supported by the new service. She commented: “After suffering with post-natal depression and a bi-polar diagnosis after the birth of my first child, it took me seven years to pluck up the courage to have another baby. I was introduced to the new team early on, in mid-pregnancy, and I am absolutely amazed by the support they have given me. They listened to any fears or worries I had, and put a birth plan in place which helped immensely.
“After giving birth to my second son, I have been able to contact them regarding my mental health, and the whole team are just a phone call away. I’ve also been trying a baby massage course provided by the team, designed to help strengthen the bond between mother and baby, which has had amazing benefits for us both! I can't thank Steph, Claire and the rest of the team enough – they do an incredible job and have made this time round a really positive experience!”
Natalie (27) from North Hampshire also commented: “The referral process was quick and I received an appointment straight away. The team visited me at home which made me feel comfortable and at ease. They have nursery nurses who visit you at home too, which has been very helpful in preparing me for the birth of my baby and in the following weeks. The team make you feel like you can do it and that you are not alone, even when you are struggling. There is always someone willing to help or to signpost you if they can't help. The team work with you, not against you. I feel that they have my best interests at the forefront of everything they do.”
Southern Health’s perinatal community mental health nurse Claire Walsh added: “Twenty per cent of women suffer from some sort of mental illness either during the course of pregnancy or soon after giving birth. It can be a very bewildering and scary experience for new mums and this is why the service, which we were able to expand with the support of our local commissioners, is such a lifeline for families.”
The NHS Trust’s perinatal mental health team helps mothers experiencing severe mental illness, through a programme of treatment and support in the community and in its specialist inpatient unit in Winchester – where mums and their babies can stay until they are well enough to be at home. Community-based care includes advice and support over the telephone; outpatient consultations in clinics, GP surgeries or at home; support and guidance for an individual’s family; medication; and a range of therapy sessions.
The community perinatal team is the first in the country to receive independent accreditation from the Royal College of Psychiatry. It means that the perinatal service is ‘double accredited,’ as its inpatient unit in Winchester had already received its own accreditation. This was after the service was named national ‘Psychiatric Team of the Year’ at the Royal College of Psychiatrists Awards in 2014.