Devon Partnership NHS Trust has been successful with its bid to secure a new specialist mother and baby unit (MBU) for the south west. It is one of four MBUs commissioned by NHS England to address a shortfall of beds nationally and will provide women from across Devon, Somerset and Cornwall with a much needed specialist inpatient service, reducing the need to travel such large distances for care and treatment in the future
Over the past few years we have built up an excellent perinatal service across Devon for pregnant women and new mothers with serious mental health needs. However, there has been no specialist Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) west of Bristol, where inpatient care can be provided for mothers and their babies, together.
We have been campaigning for a unit to be located in Devon for some time now and submitted our formal bid to NHS England early in 2017. The bidding team included the involvement of women, families, the NHS and other organisations from across Devon, Somerset and Cornwall to ensure the needs of families from those areas were taken into account at every stage.
In April, we were delighted to learn that Exeter had been selected as the location for this vital new facility and that we had been selected to deliver the service, based on the strength of our existing perinatal community service and the collaborative and inclusive nature of our bid for the south west.
Commenting on the news, Dr Jo Black, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead for Perinatal Services said: "It is difficult to overstate the difference that this new unit will make to the lives of new mums from across the south west region - and their families.
"At the moment, women who have serious mental health needs following the birth of their baby have to do one of two things. They can either be supported, outside the county where they live, in a specialist MBU - often hundreds of miles away - or they can be admitted to a general adult psychiatric ward, but have to be separated from their new born child.
“A new MBU in Exeter means that we can provide the support and treatment that mums need, in a good, accessible central location, and that they can continue to be with their babies. This is a huge step forward for everyone involved in perinatal mental health in the south west.
“We are grateful for the input from parents, clinicians, commissioners, charities and general hospital management who worked tirelessly with us over the years to get us to this point and we are all incredibly excited about it."
Devon Partnership NHS Trust has been informed that it has been selected as the preferred bidder to provide the new mother and baby mental health unit in the South West following a procurement process by NHS England. Discussions about the arrangements for the awarding of the new contract and the mobilisation of the new service will subsequently take place with NHS England.
The aim is for the service to be developed in a phased way with four beds becoming operational by March 2018 and a new purpose built unit, providing eight beds, being built in Exeter in 2019.