Kent and Medway trials new maternal mental health service

7 April 2021

The NHS in Kent and Medway is piloting new maternal mental health services for women who have experienced birth loss or birth trauma.

‘Thrive – Psychological Support for Birth Trauma and Loss’ is running throughout 2021 in east Kent, as a joint partnership between the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) and East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (EKHUFT).

As announced by NHS England on 6 April 2021, Kent and Medway has been selected to be an early implementer for new services to support maternal mental health, as part of a testing phase taking place in England.

Long Term Plan

The NHS Long Term Plan committed to national expansion of these services and the launch of new Maternal Mental Health Services (MMHS) in every region of the country.

Thrive is an inclusive, multi-professional service, offering assessment and interventions to those experiencing moderate to severe mental health difficulties as a result of experiences that occurred during or were triggered by pregnancy or giving birth.

The service has been built and shaped with input from women who have lived through birth trauma and birth loss themselves, to ensure that it meets their needs and understands the barriers they may face in seeking help.

A patient's experience

One of the mothers involved in the design of the service is Charlotte, from east Kent, who suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the birth of her first child in 2018.

She said: ‘I am honoured to be a part of such a transformative project. My PTSD went ‘under the radar’ for a long time, and I was referred for counselling over six months later. If the Thrive service had been available at the time, I believe I would have been able to access treatment earlier. I hope that Thrive will continue to evolve in response to the feedback from the women who use it.’

Specialist professionals working together

A Senior Clinical Psychologist provides NICE recommended therapies and specialist mental health midwives provide clinical expertise and knowledge of birth loss and trauma, and support for future pregnancies. Additionally, a person who has experienced birth loss or birth trauma is available to offer support and advice to others.

Rose Waters, Service Manager of Specialist Services at KMPT said:  ‘We are delighted to be working with partners in the local system to provide this much-needed specialist support. Our Thrive service started supporting people in January 2021 and is already actively helping women to address and overcome the trauma they have experienced, through the delivering of psychological therapy by Dr Athena Duffy, our Consultant Clinical Psychologist’.

Tanya-Jane Cox and Sally Densham, Specialist Mental Health Midwives at EKHUFT, said: ‘As specialist perinatal mental health midwives, we feel privileged to have been invited to join the pilot project team. We speak with those who have experienced trauma, to let them know that they are not alone and offer hope that effective treatment is available.’

It is hoped that the east Kent pilot can be expanded across Kent and Medway by 2024.

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