The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring equitable co-ordinated access to mental health provision for new mothers and their families throughout pregnancy and during the postnatal period.
We know that looking after the health and wellbeing of mothers is vital for them and for their children, and can contribute to breaking the cycle of poor outcomes from early mental health adversity. That is supported by £50 million investment over four years, which is being overseen and directed by the perinatal and infant mental health programme board.
We are working with all health boards across Scotland to establish and expand specialist perinatal services. That includes specialist community perinatal mental health, infant mental health and maternity and neonatal psychological interventions services. Initial staffing for those developments should be in place by the end of the financial year, and we will work closely with boards going forward, in order to develop the services further.
Midwives, health visitors and general practitioners are often the best sources of advice and support with regard to mental health and wellbeing. Health visitors play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of children and families in our communities, and are at the core of delivering universal early years services.
Caithness health action team has reported that travel from Caithness to Raigmore hospital, in Inverness, and being many miles away from home and family, are negatively affecting some women’s mental health.
It advocates use of the model that is currently operating in NHS Orkney for maternity services. Will the health team work with NHS Highland and others to ascertain the pros and cons of that model for Caithness?
It is essential that women in Scotland, including those who live in remote and rural areas, receive a safe high-quality service from the NHS.
We continue to work with maternity transport groups as part of the best start programme. An expert group examines transport of pregnant women and newborn babies. As part of that group’s work, specific consideration is also being given to the pathways and protocols for remote and rural transfer across Scotland.
The best start north steering group has been established by four health boards in the north of Scotland and is overseen by the chief executives of NHS Highland and NHS Grampian. The group seeks to understand the resources, constraints, challenges and opportunities in the current systems, and we welcome the group’s conclusions.
Additional support can be so important to the wellbeing of both parents and newborn children—even more so during Covid. A constituent of mine, whose partner works away from home, is really feeling the strain. Can she form a non-familiar support bubble to access the support that she needs?
We recognise the difficulties that new parents—mothers, in particular—face in developing informal relationships with their peers at this time. However, there are measures in place to ensure that those who are more vulnerable continue to have access to support through whatever means are most appropriate—one example being peer support for mental health. They will also continue to have access to universal services, including maternity and health visiting, to further aid access to local community support. We do not propose adjusting existing guidance for that group at this time.