Fewer mental health referrals for new mothers in Doncaster
Fewer new or expectant mothers were in contact with Doncaster’s mental health services in January than a year earlier – despite most of the country seeing rising demand.
NHS Digital data reveals there were around 70 open referrals to a perinatal mental health team in the NHS Doncaster CCG area at the end of January.
That was down from 90 a year earlier, and just below the 75 recorded at the end of December.
A woman can have more than one referral into services at a given time.
Perinatal mental health problems are those which affect women during pregnancy or in the first year after their child is born.
According to the NHS, perinatal mental illness affects up to one in five new and expectant mothers and covers a range of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Across England, there were 19,600 open referrals at the end of January – up from 17,600 a year earlier and more than at the end of any month in 2020.
“We’ve heard throughout the pandemic from mums struggling with the impact on their emotional wellbeing,” said Sarah McMullen, director of impact and engagement at the National Childbirth Trust.
Anxiety about the virus, reduced services, restrictions on partners attending appointments and less informal support from friends and family have made it “a very challenging and isolating time”, she said, adding: “We don’t think that new mothers are getting enough support.”
Despite rising numbers of referrals, a recent survey carried out by the charity found around one in four new mothers are not being asked about their mental health at their six-week routine GP check-up, which it said is supposed to identify emotional problems.
The NCT said it wants GPs to be supported to provide dedicated time and space for the appointment, alongside investment in health visiting and maternity services.
The NHS recently announced it was planning 26 new “hubs” across the country to bring maternity services and psychological therapy under one roof.
It said 10 sites will be up and running within months, while the rest will open by April next year.
An NHS spokesman said: “We have already addressed what was a postcode lottery, by ensuring everywhere in the country has a specialist perinatal mental health service.”