Liberal Democrats launch radical new plan for maternal mental health

The Scottish Liberal Democrat conference has today endorsed plans for a radical new offer to mothers on mental health.

The motion, moved by East Lothian member Elisabeth Wilson and unanimously adopted by the party’s spring conference, establishes a new five-point offer to mothers on the services they can expect to receive:

·         The current post-natal six-week check to include support from a GP and Health Visitor with specific training on maternal mental health;

·         Referral to a suitable community support network operated by voluntary groups or the third sector and supported by a health visitor;

·         Where inpatient care is needed this is offered with provision for the mother’s continuing care for the baby, with the range of bed spaces expanded to allow more women to receive care close to their family home;

·         A new campaign to remove the stigma of mental ill health for new mothers, and to provide reassurance that keeping mothers and babies together is a foremost concern except in the most extreme cases.

·         A new time-bound plan to increase core training for GPs and health visitors in identifying and treating maternal mental health, to allow for the entitlement for a fully trained six-week check to be honoured.

Post-natal depression and depression during pregnancy affect up to one in five women. One in two women who experience it will go undetected and untreated.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: 

“The Scottish Liberal Democrats are proud to be the first party in Scotland to set out a comprehensive, dedicated strategy for improving the detection and treatment of maternal mental health.

 “In contrast, the SNP have repeatedly cut the share of the health budget dedicated to supporting mental health and allowed the mental health strategy to expire over a year ago. 

“The evidence shows that poor maternal mental health impacts on both mothers and their children. Babies born to mothers who are experiencing perinatal mental ill health are more likely to be born premature and have a low birth weight. In the longer term, maternal mental ill health can also impact on children's behaviour and their ability to learn. 

“Delivering a step change in perinatal mental health services will make a huge difference and protect mothers and babies alike. Just as we would never overlook the physical health of pregnant women, we cannot ignore mental ill health and that’s why I am delighted that our conference has come together to endorse this plan for action.”

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