Bliss call for better psychological support on neonatal units

Posted on April 30, 2018

This Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week, Bliss is calling for all parents on neonatal units across the UK to have access to psychological support.

Bliss have called for better psychological support for new parents at the start of Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week.

Mothers of premature babies are 40 per cent more likely to be affected by postnatal depression soon after birth than mothers of full-term babies.[1] Having a baby born premature or sick and in need of neonatal care is an extremely stressful and anxious time for parents. It is vital that there is adequate provision and access to psychological support on admission to the neonatal unit, as well as after their baby has been discharged or sadly passes away.

National standards for neonatal care across the UK indicate that all parents should have access to psychological and social support, including a trained counsellor.

However, Bliss research shows that no country in the UK is reaching the national standards for psychological support in neonatal units.

Our research has found:

England[2]

  • 41 per cent of neonatal units in England said that parents had no access to a trained mental health worker.
  • 30 per cent of neonatal units said parents had no psychological support at all.

Wales[3]

  • 45 per cent of neonatal units in Wales are not able to offer parents access to psychological support of any kind.
  • None of Wales’ three neonatal intensive care units (NICU) – which care for the country’s sickest babies – had a dedicated trained mental health worker working on the unit.

Scotland[4]

  • 12 out of 13 units in Scotland have access to a trained mental health professional of some kind. However, access to these professionals is often inadequate to meet demand.

Northern Ireland[5]

  • Five out of 7 neonatal units in Northern Ireland do not have dedicated access to a mental health professional.
  • Northern Ireland’s only NICU does not offer any access to a mental health professional.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss said: “Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week provides the opportunity for Bliss to renew its call for better psychological support for families on neonatal units across the UK, during what can be an incredibly difficult and distressing time for parents.

“At present, none of the UK nations is reaching the national standard for providing psychological support to parents on units. Bliss is calling for more funding from every UK Government to ensure that mental health support is available to each parent who has a baby in neonatal care.”

 

[1] Vigod, S.N., Villegas, L., Dennis, C.L., Ross, L.E. (2010) Prevalence and risk factors for

postpartum depression among women with preterm and low-birth-weight infants: a

systematic review, BJOG, 117(5), pp.540-50

[2] Bliss Baby Report 2015: Hanging in the balance - England

[3] Bliss baby report 2016: Time for change - Wales

[4] Bliss Scotland baby report 2017: An opportunity to deliver improvements in neonatal care

[5] Bliss and Tiny Life Northern Ireland baby report 2018