MPs have called on the government to urgently address the lack of
resources for new mothers with severe mental health problems.
Julia Drown, chairperson of the maternity services sub-committee,
said MPs were “shocked” to hear that in many areas there were not
enough specialist mother and baby units for women with severe
post-natal mental health problems.
The committee’s report, Inequalities in Access to Maternity
Services, published last week, cites research from the Royal
College of Midwives which shows there are entire counties without
mother and baby units.
The report also draws attention to inequalities in access
experienced by other groups in society, including ethnic
minorities, asylum seekers, homeless people, travellers, those
living in poverty and those affected by domestic violence.
The committee found that implementation of good practice with these
groups was generally achieved by particular individuals acting on
their own initiative and that this was rarely shared across the
health service or followed in other areas.
“This is deeply disappointing because it means that families across
the country are not getting access to the services that they need,”
The report adds that “basic communication problems” have hindered
maternity services for many of these groups, and urges sensitivity
to cultural differences.
The committee was also told that when homeless people were moved
between areas, or asylum seekers were dispersed, information on
maternity care was often lost. MPs called on the government to
address this and ensure there was a proper flow of information
between maternity services in different areas.
The report also expresses frustration at the lack of progress made
towards fulfilling the needs of women and families affected by
Christine Gowdrige, director of charity the Maternity Alliance,
said her organisation urged a “cross- departmental approach”
towards improving access to maternity services for disadvantaged
women, adding that issues such as homelessness would not be
resolved by focusing solely on health.
– Inequalities in Access to Maternity Services from www.parliament.uk