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Delivering iHV PIMH Champions cascade training in Scotland

5th July 2021

A great Voices blog by Marie Balment & Gail Howes, iHV PIMH Champions, Aberdeenshire HSCP, NHS Grampian on their recent experience of rolling out the iHV PIMH Champions cascade training in Scotland.

Marie Balment & Gail Howes, iHV PIMH Champions, Aberdeenshire HSCP, NHS Grampian

The first cohort of iHV Champions for Perinatal & Infant Mental Health were born in Scotland in early 2021. Around 30 Health Visitors and Midwives nationally have now completed the comprehensive training package.

iHV PIMH Champions in Scotland are energised with a passion to improve the experience and outcomes of women and families facing mental illness, and we aim to work as a useful adjunct to existing services. With clear guidance, boundaries and expectations, from iHV and NHS Education for Scotland, we provide the iHV PIMH awareness training across agency and disciplinary borders, thus building networks and connecting services.

For us, our role as PIMH Champions in Aberdeenshire Health & Social Care Partnership, is an additional responsibility. Despite working within the same partnership, we work in different localities, and thus we’d never had the opportunity to meet each other previous to our recent Champions work. We both agree that our working friendship and ability to bounce ideas off each other has been a real benefit and has been an added bonus to the experience so far. Together we’ve felt confident to identify and work towards a small test of change within our own areas of work, which has potential to change practice more widely.

Doing the role justice takes time and effort, the former regularly being in short supply! However, we have already made some fantastic links which helps tremendously, including Dan at Robert Gordon University as well as our supportive colleague’s at iHV and NHS Education for Scotland.

We cascaded the first two-day PIMH awareness training to 16 Health Visitors in early June via MS Teams. The somewhat daunting experience of digital teaching didn’t go perfectly but the evaluation pre- and post-event shows a significant shift in knowledge and confidence in all areas, including supporting families facing mental illness, assessing infant mental health, and analysing and assessing risk.

Some participant comments included:

“I am going to have additional tools to support families within my care and approach situations differently”

“I will be more aware of how to recognise signs of perinatal mental health”

“Being aware of the language I use can help greatly in building the trusting relationship with families”

“It has informed me more on PIMH giving me a better insight on how to support families as a whole and not just the mum”

We were delighted to see we’d managed to facilitate the learning experience successfully overall.

The clear message we heard was that Health Visitors know more than they realise, but some lack confidence that what they can offer is helpful to a mentally unwell parent. By sharing research evidence and expert-by-experience testimony, we managed to show how vital the role of the Health Visitor is to all families facing and recovering from perinatal mental illness.

The thread of perinatal and infant mental health and wellbeing runs through all that we do with families during this time period, it’s not a topic to be cautious of or feel any less capable of managing with the skill set we have. It’s about having the compassion to see that families facing mental illness need the same Health Visiting support as any other family, in the self-same person-centred way we are proficient at providing.

Marie Balment & Gail Howes, iHV PIMH Champions, Aberdeenshire HSCP, NHS Grampian