2nd May 2019
A blog by Hannah McMillan, Health Visitor Dartford and Link HV for MBU Dartford, on her role as the Link HV for a new Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).
As part of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, NHS England is investing significantly in specialist perinatal mental health services aimed at increasing access to specialist treatment and support for an extra 30,000 women each year when they most need it. By April 2019, new and expectant mothers will be able to access specialist perinatal mental health community services in every part of the country.
We in Dartford, Kent, are part of this new initiative and we now boast one of the four additional 8-bedded Mother and Baby Units (MBU) which opened its doors in August 2018. For the last 5 years I have been the Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) Champion Health Visitor for my Trust and have always looked for opportunities to increase my knowledge in the area of PMH. When the opening of the new unit was announced I was, therefore, extremely excited to get involved and applied for the new role of HV Link immediately.
I have found throughout my career that there is a high prevalence of mental health problems in the perinatal period and we, as Health Visitors, are uniquely placed in identifying mothers who are at risk and are able to ensure that they receive the support they need. I felt extremely privileged when I was successful in my application to be the Link HV to the new MBU as I was sure that having a readily available HV in a specifically designed unit would be of great benefit to those mothers in need of support.
When I first began this new role, I was contracted to provide 7.5 hours per week to the MBU and the rest of the working week dedicated to my HV caseload. The staff within the MBU were fantastic at acknowledging the importance and usefulness of the HV role within the unit and quite quickly they applied to have my time increased to 15 hours per week.
Having the link HV role for the unit ensures that there is continuous one to one and direct health support for the vulnerable mothers. I feel that one of the key strengths of this individual post is that it allows for the HV to acknowledge and respond to maternal anxieties. The role is still in the developmental stage and a great deal of my time has thus far been spent initiating the HV’s roles and responsibilities, and defining policy around those elements. I am currently in the process of developing the children’s safeguarding protocols and safe sleeping policy for the MBU to ensure that the infant’s safety is at the forefront.
I am looking forward to seeing how this new role develops and I am confident that I will continue to see the positive impact that the role of a HV on the unit can make.