Perinatal mental health in southeast London: the barriers to access

NHS England are seeking to improve the support new and soon-to-be mothers are accessing during the perinatal period, i.e. during pregnancy and/or the first two years after childbirth. We (Civil Society Consulting) have been commissioned via the mental health charity BLG Mind to carry out this social and community research and policy analysis in Bromley and Southwark.

Through surveys, 1-to-1 interviews, and focus groups, we have reached mums and soon-to-be mums to find out their stories. Our work involved uncovering and evaluating the barriers women face in accessing perinatal mental health services – logistical, emotional, cultural, psychological, as well as what kind of support is most game-changing. We identified valuable policy entry points and formulated evidence-based policy recommendations for NHS England, which have been presented in two in-depth, quality reports for the local perinatal teams of Bromley and Southwark.

The same study has been conducted in parallel in four other Southeast London boroughs too. Carrying out extensive analysis in two boroughs has rendered our team particularly knowledgeable. As a result, BLG Mind have recently recruited us to help write the final six-borough-wide report, synthesising the findings from all boroughs to present meaningful recommendations to the NHS.

Improving the safety and wellbeing of mothers is a Human Rights issue. On top of this, the perinatal period is a game-changer in child development. This means that helping mothers through this critical stage will improve lives today as well as contributing to sustainable societies of the future. We are proud and excited to be working on these issues. Moreover, our research team are extremely grateful to all the women who participated – we noted their courage and generosity of spirit was motivated by a sincere desire to improve experiences for future women like them.