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Specialist Mother and Baby Units (MBU's)

The National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services, (Published March 2007),  specifies that seriously ill women, whose needs cannot be met by primary care, will require the assistance of Specialist Perinatal Psychiatric Services and sometimes admission to a Specialist Mother and Baby Psychiatric Unit (MBU).

The Department of Health in its document Specialised Services National Definitions describes a definition set for an MBU:

Definitions Set

Mother and baby units develop specialist skills in working with mothers and babies and their families at a high-risk time. This is a low volume service that is viable for populations of one million or more. 2-3 admissions can be expected per 1000 births.

Detailed Description of Specialised Activity

Mother and baby units provide inpatient assessment and treatment for mothers and babies. Mother and baby units should have adequate capacity to manage emergency admissions.

It goes on to describe the types of services that should be provided in an MBU.

In 2009 a study into MBUs demonstrated that while they are serving women with severe mental illness, the provision of the units in England is patchy, and the quality of services they provide is highly variable.

  • National guidelines state that to be considered a ‘Specialist Mother and Baby Unit’ each centre should consist of a minimum of 6 beds.  (the one covering the Yorkshire regions currently has four beds)
  • There are 12 National Centres with specialist Mother and Baby units with a total of 91 beds.
  • With a mean length of stay of 56 days there is only therefore places for 593 mums suffering for postnatal mental health

It is estimated that the number of expected cases of psychotic postnatal depression is around 1,412, which means that there are only spaces for 41% of mums who should be provided hospital treatment.

This leaves potentially 819 mothers, babies and their families at high risk being treated by ‘Home Care’ teams who cannot provide round the clock care provide by a specialist MBU.

This also means that there are no hospital places for the 21,187 expected cases of women who will present themselves as suffering with severe Postnatal depression, their only option will be to be cared for at home.