Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, and Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, have announced an initiative of the Women’s Health Taskforce to increase the specialist mental health support available to pregnant women in a number of maternity units around the country.
The additional funding will provide for the appointment of four additional Clinical Midwife Specialists who will join an existing network of 21 senior midwifes who have specialist expertise in the area of perinatal mental health across the 19 maternity services.
This is an injection of 20% increased capacity to this vital service. The funding will also support the appointment of an additional consultant in Galway University Hospital, providing highly specialised care in the area of perinatal mental health.
Critically, this recent additional investment will assist in the full implementation of the HSE Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Services Model of Care. Work on this model of care, which supports the mental health needs of women before, during and after pregnancy, has been ongoing since its launch in 2017.
Thanks to the investment to date, the specialist mental health teams associated with this Model of Care are now fully resourced, and all posts are in place or currently under recruitment. The additional posts provided for with this new allocation of funding will enhance services nationwide – increasing capacity in maternity services in Limerick, Cork, Dublin and Galway.
This year, the Women’s Health Taskforce has been listening to women at all stages of life share their views and experiences of women’s health. This research shows clearly the importance women place on targeted mental health support for women and girls at key life stages.
The National Maternity Experience Survey also highlights this – while the majority of women had positive experiences in maternity services, many women felt their mental health was not supported enough during and following a pregnancy.
Recognising this, the Women’s Health Fund will ring-fence this investment to increase capacity in specialist perinatal mental health services, building on the substantial work that has been achieved to date under the Perinatal Mental Health Model of Care.
Welcoming the investment, Minister Donnelly said, “this is open policy making at its best. We are listening to women and we are taking action. Women have told us how important mental health supports are during and after a pregnancy. In response, I am making perinatal mental health a priority within our women’s health programme. This is not a promise of change – this is a 2021 change that will have an impact on the ground now and into the future.”
Minister Butler said, “I’m delighted to announce this funding which will further strengthen specialist perinatal mental health services. This welcome investment builds on the significant work progressed over recent years since the launch of the Perinatal Mental Health Model of Care in 2017.”
“Perinatal mental health has been one of my priorities since I came into Office last year and today marks a monumental milestone in mental health to ensure the full and complete resourcing and implementation of the specialist mental health teams associated with this model of care. I would like to commend the many stakeholders involved in this remarkable achievement.”
Dr Peter McKenna, National Clinical Director of the National Women and Infants Health Programme, said, “it is gratifying and welcome that we are in a position to respond to the current demand in this area of maternity care that has been demonstrated in the National Maternity Experience Survey. Since the survey, the impact that Covid-19 has had on the mental health of pregnant women has made these additional appointments even more necessary.”
This commitment will help to ensure that the current need and future demand for specialist mental health supports in pregnancy can be addressed, so that these services can continue to provide support to women in a timely manner at an important and vulnerable time in their lives.
A 2022 plan for women’s health is in development informed by engagement with women across the country, key stakeholders, clinicians, and advocates for women’s health through the Women’s Health Taskforce. It is intended the plan will be brought to Government and published later this year.