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Dozens of referrals for vulnerable mothers refused due to ‘lack of beds’

Dozens of referrals to specialist care for women with serious mental health problems during or after pregnancy are being turned down because no bed was available, data collected by HSJ reveals.

HSJ submitted freedom of information requests to 19 trusts running mother and baby units (MBUs) – which are inpatient services where women who experience serious mental health problems during or after pregnancy can stay with their child – asking for the “total number of referrals… which could not be admitted because no bed was available”. 

Although all of the 19 trusts HSJ sent freedom of information requests to responded, many said they did not hold this information. However, five – Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust, Essex Partnership University FT, Greater Manchester Mental Health FT, Hertfordshire Partnership University FT, and Nottinghamshire Healthcare FT – together identified 197 referrals which were rejected. Greater Manchester identified a further three which were turned down in the calendar year 2022, although it did not specify which financial year this was.

Several experts told HSJ the figures reflected a lack of capacity for mothers with serious mental health problems.

Maternal Mental Health Alliance campaign manager Karen Middleton said MBUs offered “the best outcomes” for new mothers who needed inpatient treatment".

Ms Middleton continued: “When a much-needed MBU bed isn’t available, women instead face admission to general adult psychiatric wards, separating them from their newborn babies at a crucially important time for relationship development. These wards lack appropriate facilities and expertise to support postnatal mothers with their specific physical and emotional needs.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 16 August 2022


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