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Get ready for World Maternal Mental Health Day at #pmhpthevillage in Oxfordshire

30th April 2019

A blog by iHV PIMH Champion and iHV Fellow, Sylvia Woolley, in support of the third annual UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week , 29 April – 5 May 2019.

Preparing to promote Maternal Mental Health Week 2019 and #pmhpthevillage has made me reflect on the importance of working together to create respectful, sustainable partnerships in our village so that we provide the best support for women and their families. In the current climate, where services are frequently working to their maximum capacity, where expectations are high from both providers and service users and resources are frequently limited, how can we find time to do this in a way that ensures that we work together to eradicate barriers while continuing to appreciate each other’s roles, responsibilities and boundaries. Locally, we are trialling a simple way to improve the communication, relationships, role clarity and understanding of professional boundaries when working with families in the perinatal period between the 0-5 Public Health, Maternity and Adult Mental Health Services.

In the health visiting service, we have always had iHV Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (PIMH) Champion Health Visitors (HV) in each locality countywide, acting as a resource for staff and cascading PIMH updates. A discussion at the local PMH Network meeting resulted in the maternity service following this example and creating Community PMH Midwife Champions. In 2018, we had our first two PMH Champions network meetings where PIMH Champions were able to link in, participate in an education update session, and clarify our respective roles (along with indulging in delicious homemade brownies – after all there is nothing like sharing tea and cake to bring people together)! The feedback so far indicates that Champions have left each session with a deeper appreciation and understanding of each other’s roles, responsibilities and service pressures along with forging relationships that they then are able to consolidate in their respective localities.

Moving forwards, there are plans to have biannual iHV PIMH Champion meetings and each meeting will continue to have both a networking and education focus with topics selected relevant to the perinatal period. The latest PIMH Champions from our Adult Mental Health Teams (AMHT) and our new Community Perinatal Team will also be invited to join us and I am already visualising the rich, shared learning that will happen when we bring everyone together.

Outcomes from Serious Case Reviews frequently highlight a lack of continuity of care, poor understanding of professional roles, failures in communication and information sharing between professionals, and therefore improving organisational factors, such as fragmentation of services and poor interdisciplinary communication, is fundamental to improving services for women and their families in the perinatal period. Perinatal mental health is everyone’s business and, as professionals understanding who is responsible for what, is fundamental in ensuring that women and their families are offered the right support and service at the right time. Our hope is that by bringing like-minded professionals together we can all contribute to the development of an integrated perinatal mind-set in the wider workforce and start to break down barriers to increase accessibility to services for women and their families.

Although this idea is a simple one, it has been hard work for all those involved in coordinating bringing people together when everyone has such busy schedules. It continues to be a work in progress and there will always be scope for improvement. Collectively, we have more impact and working collaboratively, alongside the Maternity Perinatal Psychiatrist, Public Health Midwife, Clinical Lead from the Infant Parent Perinatal Service and, latterly, the Lead of Adult Mental Health and the Community Perinatal Service, has been hugely rewarding. #maternalhealthmatters

Come and see us on World Maternal Mental Health Day in Oxfordshire

To promote, support and celebrate World Maternal Mental Health Day in Oxfordshire, the health visiting service along with many of our partner agencies including MIND, Infant Parent Perinatal Service, Oxford University, Oxfordshire County Council, Community Perinatal Service… will be in the Foyer of the Westgate Library all day on 1 May 2019. Do pop in and see us – there will be chocolate!


Sylvia Woolley


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