A new project aiming high in the North East and North Cumbria for maternal mental health

Updated: 4 days ago

Maternal Mental Health Services Project

Ang Broadbridge, Maternal Mental Health Services Project Manager

As many as one in five women experience a mental health problem in pregnancy or in the first year of their baby’s life. In addition to the impact of this on women’s health and wellbeing, maternal mental health issues have been linked to poorer mental and physical health outcomes for children. Factors such as poverty, trauma and not having access to strong social supports, as well as history of mental health problems increase women’s risk of experiencing issues during this time.

NHS Long Term Plan

Within the NHS Long Term Plan there’s an ambition for maternal mental health services to be better linked into community hub developments and better connected to Primary Care Network services. The Long Term Plan brings an increase in services to benefit more women and the extension of specialist mental health support for new parents. To enable this development the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector can play a pivotal role in realising this ambition in the North East and North Cumbria.

Introducing the Maternal Mental Health Services Project

Blue Stone Collaborative (BSC) are excited to be leading on the delivery of a new initiative, supported by transformational funding from the North East & North Cumbria Integrated Care System (NENC ICS). The Maternal Mental Health Services (MMHS) Project grew out of initial discussions via the VCSE Partnership Programme, which supports the VCSE sector to engage and collaborate with the NENC ICS. Our ambition is for the VCSE sector, alongside the NHS, to work together to identify and support women and their partners, gathering the data needed to demonstrate improved mental health in the next few years.

On a personal level I feel privileged to be leading this project for BSC; as a mother who experienced postnatal depression it’s a subject that’s really close to my heart. As I began to recover I returned to work in the advocacy sector and felt that I wanted to find a way of harnessing the power of peer support to offer other parents the thing I most wanted on my own journey through parental mental health, someone to talk to who had walked the same path. I founded a local postnatal depression support group which ran for six years with support from other parents and VCSE colleagues. I was struck by the drive of many of the parents who attended the group over the years to come together and share their experiences to make things better for people coming down the road behind them as well as get alongside and support their peers.

This new project presents a real opportunity to design maternal mental health services with mothers and families and the professionals who support them in the VCSE. The aim of this innovative programme is to support the development of new maternal mental health services via the VCSE to help better deliver meaningful outcomes and benefits from preconception through to baby’s 2nd birthday. Working with the North East and North Cumbria Perinatal Mental Health Clinical Network, this project will help to build capacity and integrate VCSE sector link work provision and peer support into maternal mental health service pathways.

Prototype development and link working

This project will be developing four prototype link work services in the four Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) areas of the NENC ICS, harnessing the innovation and community knowledge of the VCSE sector.

The strength of the link work model is the person centred, strength-based approach; for this project this will look like link workers empowering mothers and families to take control of their health and wellbeing, promoting recovery, and focusing on ‘what matters to me’ and giving time to take a holistic approach to health and wellbeing[i]. A priority will be to engage and enable mothers to participate in group activities and connect to local assets, connecting to peer support or creating new opportunities for peer support and creating action plans, reviewing these in a way that’s most meaningful to mothers accessing support.

Whilst this is a NENC ICS funded programme, each prototype must be developed and embedded at a local ‘place based’ level. Four areas have been identified, these are Sunderland/South Tyneside, Tees Valley/Middlesbrough, North Cumbria and Northumberland. I’ve started work with a Discovery phase, a mapping exercise, as the project will consider the needs of underserved women and communities alongside identifying assets and connecting to peer support. Project delivery will start in the new year and this initiative will run from 2021 – 2023 and help inform future commissioning.

Sharing learning

A key feature of this project is capturing and sharing learning from the four prototypes. I’m keen that the link workers come together building a supportive learning community, connecting widely across the local system and capturing impact through stories, numbers and outcome measures as a route to sustainability. The benefits of addressing perinatal mental health problems are far reaching, as well as supporting families to thrive there is potential to reduce the costs to the NHS and social services which are estimated to cost around £1.2 billion annually[ii]. A significant proportion of this cost relates to impact on children.


As the project develops I’ll be continuing to connect with Maternity Voices Partnerships to ensure that the project is linked in and listens to women and their families’ experiences, as well as sharing experiences and learning from across the project. For further information see Blue Stone Collaborative or email Project Manager Ang Broadbridge at Ang@Bluestone.org.uk

Ang Broadbridge

Project Manager, Maternal Mental Health Services (MMHS)

[i] NHS England » Social prescribing [ii] Perinatal mental health - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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