Between October and December 2022, Healthwatch England conducted research to find out how far mental health support for mothers has improved during and after pregnancy.

Healthwatch England wanted to understand whether postnatal consultations were taking place, and whether they provided mothers with a meaningful opportunity to discuss their mental health.

Feedback from almost 2,700 new mothers and birthing partners was collected. All related births took place after the new postnatal consultations were introduced in April 2020. Naturally, many of these were during the time when Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

What we did

We looked at Healthwatch England’s data so we could understand both national trends and the issues that affect people who live in Buckinghamshire.

There were 40 responses to Healthwatch England’s survey from Buckinghamshire residents, the majority of whom identified as White British. All were aged between 25 and 49.

National findings

Healthwatch England shared its key findings in a national report.

These included:

  • Six week postnatal checks at GP surgeries are not working well at addressing mental health issues for most women in the weeks immediately after they give birth.
  • Many new mothers and birthing parents are struggling to access the support they need for their mental health.
  • There are long waits for maternal mental health referrals.
  • Some GPs are not complying with the requirement to deliver the six week postnatal consultation.

Local findings

We analysed what local respondents to Healthwatch England’s survey told us about services in Buckinghamshire.

Key findings for Buckinghamshire included:

  • Where someone had a previously identified mental health need, there seemed to be good awareness of this among NHS staff – but there was variation in how well these needs were supported.
  • Half of those that reported new or returning mental health difficulties were not referred for mental health support.
  • Overall, the quality of maternal mental health care was considered poor.
  • Half of the Bucks residents Healthwatch England spoke to said the care they received during labour and childbirth had a negative impact on their mental health.
  • 38 out of 40 people said they had a postnatal check up. 15 said their doctor didn’t spend enough time talking about their mental health and wellbeing, and 15 said it wasn’t mentioned at all.

Our report was shared with primary care leads at the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB), Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Bucks Maternity Voices Partnership.

Michelle East, Director of Midwifery at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

It was ideal to share this report with the Bucks Maternity Voices Partnership as we work so closely together to ensure service users’ voices are heard and acted on. I will also share it with our governance and quality team, and we will work the feedback that relates to the Trust into our overarching improvement plans. We will also share the report through our governance reporting processes and the Trust’s patient experience group.

Download the full report

To read the full report on maternal mental health in Buckinghamshire, download it using the button below.

Maternal mental health: findings from Healthwatch England’s research

Don’t forget, if you’d like to feed back on a health or social care service you’ve used, you can do so at any time by visiting our rate and review centre.

Published on 31 Oct, 2023 (updated 29 Nov, 2023)

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