Morpeth-based mental health team for mums and mums-to-be in the North East gets £2.7m boost

NTWS medical director Dr Rajesh Nadkarni
NTWS medical director Dr Rajesh Nadkarni

Mums and pregnant women in the North East will benefit from a £2.7million boost to a specialist mental health services unit based at Morpeth.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) has been awarded the money to expand its care for both new mums and mums-to-be who experience severe mental ill-health, such as severe post-natal depression.

The cash, announced today (Saturday) by NHS England, will be spent on additional staff for NTW’s specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Team, which is based at St George’s Hospital, Morpeth – including nursery nurses, specialist community psychiatric nurses, doctors and psychologists, as well as developing link staff with other maternity services in the region..

The specialist community team currently serves women in Newcastle and North Tyneside, but with additional funding it will now be able to reach women across the whole NTW area, which also covers Northumberland, Gateshead and Sunderland.

With the additional funding and expanded service, it is estimated the team will have supported almost 700 more women by 2019 (full details, below).

NTW consultant perinatal psychiatrist Dr Andrew Cairns said: “Welcoming a new life into the world can be one of the happiest times of your life. But for many women in the North East, this can be disrupted by severe depression, anxiety, post-partum psychosis or other mental health issue.

“The £2.7million announced today will help us reach even more women and provide further highly specialist staff to support and care for them at such an important stage of their lives. We’re talking about very severe illnesses that can have a massive impact on both women and their babies as they begin their lives together.

“Severe mental illness in new mums or mums-to-be, such as depression, anxiety or post-partum psychosis, can affect them and the child later down the line. This means it is crucial to provide specialist care and support as soon as possible. “

It is estimated that one in five women experience some form of mental illness – such as depression, anxiety or in some cases psychosis - during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Approximately 5% of women will face a severe form of mental illness during this time.

NTW’S medical director Dr Rajesh Nadkarni said: “If you can make an impact at such an important stage of someone’s life, for both mother and baby, you can have a hugely positive effect on their future lives, and on society as a whole.

“It’s highly encouraging to see a focus on such a vital part of mental health services and this money should benefit thousands of North East women and children for years to come.”

The team at St George’s Hospital offers community psychiatric nursing services for women with mental health problems relating to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. It is currently made up of five nursing staff and one consultant psychologist and supports approximately 300 women a year.

They currently support women from the inpatient mother and baby unit and those seen by NTW’s consultant in an outpatient clinic at Wansbeck General Hospital. They also support women in North Tyneside and Newcastle should they experience mental health problems (such as depression and anxiety) as a direct result of their pregnancy - both during pregnancy and up to one year after birth.

The service also helps women experiencing mental health problems that have come about from the death of a baby or a miscarriage. Referrals can be made through your midwife, health visitor, specialist mental health services or your GP.

NTW isone of the country’s largest mental health and learning disability trusts, serving a population of 1.4million people, from Berwick, through Tyneside and down to Sunderland. The £2.7million will be released by NHS England over the next three financial years and is part of £40million being shared out across the country, aimed at reaching an additional 30,000 women a year by 2021.

The estimates for women taken onto care in the expanded service are:

Northumberland

2017-18 – 137 new patients (5% birth rate)

2018-19 – 137 new patients

Gateshead

2017-18 – 28 new patients (beginning medical outpatients)

2018-19 – 114 new patients (full service, 5% birth rate)

South Tyneside

2017-18 – 20 new patients (beginning medical outpatients)

2018-19 – 80 new patients (full service, 5% birth rate)

Sunderland

2017-18 – 36 new patients (beginning medical outpatients)

2018-19 – 143 new patients (full service, 5% birth rate)