Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has welcomed the update today from the Department of Health on the roll out of community perinatal mental services across the province and the establishment of a new Mother and Baby Unit.
The Department confirmed on Tuesday (14th November), in line with commitments made by former Health Minister Robin Swann, that all five health trusts in Northern Ireland now have community perinatal mental health teams in place.
The teams offer support and interventions to women through their pregnancy and up until one year after birth, thereby improving the health and wellbeing of women, their children and their wider families.
The Department has also confirmed that Belfast City Hospital has been identified as the location for a new regional Mother and Baby unit.
Outlining the next steps, Department of Health Permanent Secretary Peter May said:
“I am delighted with the progress that has been achieved on implementing the community perinatal mental health service across the region over the last 12 months and to see the commitment each team has given to making the service a success.
“The Belfast Trust will now begin to prepare a business case for the proposed regional unit on the Belfast City Hospital site. While this is a very positive step, the reality is that we are operating in a very challenging financial situation. For this reason, timescales for delivery of the unit are dependent on being able to identify the funding required to build and run the new facility.”
Welcoming the confirmation that Belfast City Hospital has been identified as the location for a new regional Mother and Baby unit, Robin Swann said:
“When I was appointed Minister of Health I gave a clear commitment that I would do all that I could to improve perinatal mental health services across Northern Ireland. It was a promise that I was glad to see honoured through our very first 10 year Mental Health Strategy.
“It was almost 3 years ago when I approved funding for the development of a new specialist perinatal mental health services for the region, and since then teams have been rolled out across all Trusts and countless families have been receiving better care and support as a result.
“I was clear however, that investment and the continued rollout of services would not alone be enough to deliver the quality care that local mothers and their infants deserved.
“So it was at that point when the Department of Health was also tasked to undertake significant scoping and analysis work regarding the potential establishment of a Mother and Baby Unit for the region.
“I’m delighted that the Department and the PHA have now reached the next stage and that Belfast City Hospital has been identified as the location. It would be a huge relief for a great number of people if whoever the next Minister of Health is also recognises the importance of such a unit and therefore moves quickly to identify the funding required to build and run the new facility.”
The Community Perinatal Mental Health Service is designed to increase awareness of mental illness and offer support and interventions to women through their pregnancy and up until one year after birth, thereby improving the health and wellbeing of women, their children and their wider families.