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Dr Margo Wrigley, National Cinical Advisor

Expert group to recommend new mother and baby unit

At present there is no specialist perinatal mental health service outside Dublin

A new report on the future of perinatal mental health services in Ireland is expected to recommend the establishment of at least one mother and baby unit and six specialist multi-disciplinary perinatal mental health teams, IMT has learned.

The report by the National Group on Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service Design will advise the HSE on what perinatal mental health services are needed in Ireland.

It is expected to recommend that each of the six hospital groups will be allocated a specialist perinatal mental health team to be based in the hospital with the greatest number of births and provide support into the smaller units.

According to the HSE, the report “will cover the specialist component of what should be an overall HSE cross divisional approach to perinatal mental health services”.

It is understood that the report will look at the need for maternity liaison teams, specialist perinatal mental health teams, mother and baby units and the interface with secondary care mental health services (general adult psychiatry community mental health teams).

In its National Service Plan for 2017, the HSE Mental Health Division committed to establishing specialist perinatal mental health services in Cork and Limerick. According to the Executive, some funding allocated from the additional government funding granted in 2016 has been allocated for this purpose.

The move to prioritise perinatal mental health is an initiative driven by the HSE Mental Health Division and its National Director Anne O’Connor.

Speaking to IMT, Dr Margo Wrigley, Consultant Psychiatrist and HSE National Clinical Advisor and Clinical Programme Group Lead for Mental Health, said that the Mental Health Division of the HSE acknowledged that perinatal mental health services in Ireland needed to be developed.

“As National Clinical Advisor I am really pleased that the Mental Health Division decided to prioritise this for development in 2016 and 2017 because it is a gap in terms of providing proper services for women. Particularly since it is known that where women suffer from significant mental health problems subsequently there may be difficulties with bonding with their babies and that can have lifelong effects for those children, so it is really important that we have a full perinatal mental health strategy,” Dr Wrigley stated.

Perinatal mental health services have long been under-resourced in Ireland. Currently there is no specialist perinatal mental health service outside Dublin and there are no mother and baby units on the Island of Ireland.

In contrast, there are approximately 20 such units in the UK.

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