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25.08.2019

Croydon’s new parents want to be supported better with their mental health.

• 63% of new parents experience emotional issues with a lot feeling there is stigma and embarrassment about mental health issues with those who could help.

• There is a lack of support and examples were care was not continuous.

• Healthwatch recommends that there is more information, a stronger pathway and support to encourage new parents to talk about their mental health concerns as a result of having a new baby. A new report published today by Healthwatch Croydon gives an insight into the impact of having a baby can have on new parents mental health both before and after the baby is born. As London’s fastest-growing London borough, we are having more births and so it is a significant issue for the borough. Healthwatch Croydon worked closely with Croydon’s Public Health team who are leading on this issue.

As the local champion for health and social care, we went out into the community and spoke to expectant and new parents on what their experiences were in regards to emotional wellness and mental health support if and when they needed it. We spoke to 77 people and were able to gain responses from various locations around the borough as well as from online resources.

The report Service user experiences of perinatal mental health services in Croydon heard the following:

• Emotional challenges: 63% of respondents had faced emotional challenges.

• Stigma: Many respondents felt that a lot of stigma and embarrassment around talking about mental health amongst peers and healthcare professionals.

• Lack of information: People also felt that there was a lack of signposting within the various touchpoints of their maternity journey.

• Continuity of care needs to be improved: people did not feel comfortable seeing so many different faces during their maternity journey.

• Physical health prioritised: There was a great appreciation of staff under pressure, therefore emotional wellness and mental health concerns are not prioritised as physical health is the priority.

• A lack of understanding and knowledge by parents on how childbirth is going to affect mental health.

• Quality of services: Parents said that there was a variance in the quality of services between providers.

From these findings, we made the following recommendations.

• Develop the pathway for a service user who identifies themselves has having mental health challenges so their referral can be prioritised.

• Encourage more talking and discussion about mental health in the community within perinatal mental health, to remove the stigma and embarrassment, mental health seminars for expectant or new mums.

• Increased information and signposting about all areas of the maternity pathway.

• Increase continuity of care with better collaboration between the various services along the maternity pathway.

• Additional training and benchmarking against services that are exemplary.

• Facilitate mental health education along the pathway for expectant parents, through antenatal classes, seminars or wellbeing workshops.

This insight report was funded by a Healthwatch England grant to Healthwatch Croydon to follow on a project conducted nationally on the experiences of new mums and dads on local perinatal mental health services. This piece of work is a multi-year project that will help to inform future services and future commissioning of perinatal services both in Croydon but also across England.

You can download the report at: https://www.healthwatchcroydon.co.uk/learn-more/ourreports/

Gordon Kay, Healthwatch Croydon Manager said: “The experience of having a baby can take a significant toll on parents, particularly mothers. While the physical challenges are well known, the hidden mental health issues can be ignored, yet it is so important for the health of the mother and new child that these are managed and resolved. This report helps bring insight into the experiences of new parents in Croydon and helps those planning services to make changes in line with the needs of parents. It is particularly pleasing that Healthwatch Croydon can contribute not just locally but nationally as part of a wider study by Healthwatch England. My thanks to all the parents for sharing your experience – these will have a direct impact in improving services for all.”

Councillor Jane Avis, Croydon Council’s cabinet member for families, health and social care: “We welcome the recommendations in the Healthwatch Croydon report on women and their partners’ experience of perinatal mental services in Croydon. The good mental health of parents is vital for the lifelong wellbeing of their child.

“We were pleased to work with Healthwatch in the development of this survey, which follows Croydon’s Director of Public Health’s report on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. Her report made four key recommendations including a call to join up the maternal mental health care pathways in the community, primary care, midwifery, health visiting services and other partners.
“Mothers and fathers should have the right support at the right time, even before pregnancy. Healthwatch’s findings were integral to our cross borough workshop this month, which focused on closing the gaps to improve perinatal mental health care.”

A representative from Croydon Maternity Voices Partnership said: “Croydon Hospital MVP are really pleased to see user voices and experiences at the heart of these recommendations and echo their importance to the wider Perinatal Mental Health pathways as a whole. It is good to see support for improvements and the MVP hoped to support a space for greater user involvement and voices, including those from harder to reach groups.”

Editor’s notes

Healthwatch Croydon is here to improve the experience that Croydon people have when they need to use health and social care services. We believe that the best way to do this is by listening to patients and service users.
There is a local Healthwatch in every local authority area in England.

Our role is to make sure that that local health and social care services, and the local decision-makers, put the experiences of people at the heart of their care.
We are a statutory body – this means that we have a legal status to exist within the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This means decision-makers should listen to us when we give them feedback and make suggestions.

For more information, please contact Mondays to Thursdays: Jeet Sandhu, Communications Lead, 020 8663 5632 jeet.sandhu@healthwatchcroydon.co.uk
On Fridays, please call 020 8663 5649 or email robyn.bone@healthwatchcroydon.co.uk