You may remember, a couple of months ago, I wrote an open letter to the Department of Health about Perinatal Mental Health Care. You can find it here.
I’m very thankful that Simon Hamilton, the Health Minister, has taken time, not only to read the letter, but also to reply. I thought you’d like to see it!
(Please note: Having posted the letter on my blog, I printed it and asked my Husband’s office (my MP) to forward it to the Health Minister, on my behalf.)
I have a few thoughts, from the response –
- I think it’s great the Whooley Questions and the free booklets focus on PND, but it’s not enough. PND can hit at any time, not when the questions are to be asked. I think it’s improved education of what PND is, looks like, feels like and can present like which will make sure the questions and booklets do the job they are intended for.
- Referencing ‘A Strategy for Maternity Care in Northern Ireland 2012-2018′ I am delighted that Objective 15 states “Antenatal education will be enhanced…to prepare them (parents) for parenthood as well as for birth”. This makes sense. We need much more help in understanding what happens after baby is born and how to move into the role of parenthood. However, the objective is not clear about how, or if PND, will be incorporated into the classes. I believe it needs to be. I would love to know if any of us, who have suffered, could speak into the planning of it. Wouldn’t that make sense – we could use our experiences to help shape education for others? I know it’s a stretch, but if you don’t ask…
- I am also very pleased that “community pastoral care” is being reviewed and hope this will lead to better support for all new mums and dads – whether they suffer from PND or not.
- The Health Minister highlights there are proposals in place to develop more “specialist community based services and a regional mother and baby unit”. This has me very excited! We need an end to the post-code lottery, that sees some women well supported and others not. But we have to keep pushing, to see it become a reality. There is clearly much more to be done, before we see mums get the service they need and deserve… “the development of specialist perinatal mental health services will be considered alongside a wide range of completing priorities“.
- There is more good news in the form of the RQIA carrying out a review of Perinatal Mental Health Services in 2016/2016…“The RQIA have advised Lindsay’s experience can be considered as part of its review.” I am delighted to say that I am meeting with the RQIA and look forward to sharing with them, not only my experience, but all that I detailed in the open letter. That information is not mine alone – it belongs to you too! Thank you for sharing with me and now becoming part of the solution for other mums!
So there you have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts, on where we go from here. Let’s not be overly critical, especially just for the sake of it. But if you have constructive thoughts or anything you think I should be asking/focusing on (over and above what I have already written here or in the previous letter) please let me know. We can do this together! Simon himself recognises that we still have further to go, as he ends by saying “although there is much still needs to be done.“
As the election is fast approaching on 5th May, we don’t know who will be the Health Minster in the new Assembly. I’m not interested in canvassing for any party – not on my blog. But could I ask you to consider asking all of the candidates
“Can you assure me that your party will keep Perinatal Mental Health services high on its agenda and how will it go about doing that?”
I’ve always been a bit shy about chatting to politicians on the doorstep, not sure what to say and getting myself in a fluster – not this time! I can promise you I will be asking that question, time and time again!