An Angus mum’s campaign to improve postnatal mental health care in Tayside has cleared its first hurdle at the Scottish Parliament.
Margaret Reid from Forfar submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament after witnessing her sister’s traumatic experience with postpartum psychosis, which developed after giving birth to a baby girl.
She recovered at a specialist mother and baby unit (MBU) in Livingston.
But a relapse saw her sectioned in Dundee’s Carseview Centre – without her child.
It emerged mothers in Scotland can only be referred to MBUs in the first year after giving birth, and both centres of excellence are in the central belt.
‘I want to make a change’
Ms Reid’s petition called for the Scottish Government to grant an extension of that MBU time limit, and to develop another site north of the central belt.
She said: “I want to make a change because it is so wrong for women that unwell with their mental health not to get specialised treatment.”
The petition was introduced to Holyrood’s public participation and petitions committee for the first time, where MSPs backed its acceptance and agreed early action.
They will write to the Scottish Government to explore whether any action was taken after an inquiry into perinatal mental health in 2021.
It backed an extension and highlighted “significant inconsistencies in accessibility of MBUs across different NHS board areas and the lack of provision in the north of Scotland.”
Committee convener Jackson Carlaw said: “It does seem a very arbitrary thing to determine that, at the age of one, irrespective of the personal circumstances of the individual concerned, that the availability to be treated… disappears.”
Women facing ‘traumatic’ experiences
North East regional Tory MSP Tess White gave evidence on the petition to the committee during an at times emotional session.
She said: “Maggie’s sister could not be admitted to an MBU because her baby was too old. Instead, she was sectioned at Carseview in NHS Tayside.
“Maggie shared with me that her sister was ‘frightened, confused, and very, very scared’ – it was a truly traumatic experience and she was also separated from her baby at this time.
“For many mothers with mental ill-health, the 12-month mark is a precipice where the nature of support changes or falls away. And it shouldn’t be that way.
“In the north-east, no health authority is any closer to establishing a mother and baby unit whilst research from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance shows that women outside the central belt are missing out on the highest standard of specialist perinatal mental health services.”
The Scottish Government recently carried out a consultation on postnatal mental health services, which concluded a new mother and baby unit should be opened in the north of Scotland.
This would be in either Tayside, Grampian or Highland health board area.
The government has invested £26 million to improving services, and said NHS National Services Scotland is currently reviewing the cost, equity of access, safety and sustainability of postnatal mental health services.