One of the top midwives in Scotland has suggested that every health board in the NHS should feature a maternal mental health midwife.
Gillian Smith, director of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), highlighted the issue as a key area for progress as part of a series of suggestions to improve maternity care in Scotland.
Smith believes that instigating such a mental health system would enable the NHS to provide superior care for vulnerable women all over Britain.
It is notable that 10 per cent of Scottish women suffer from some form of depression and anxiety both during pregnancy and after birth.
Yet nearly three-quarters of the existing health board in Scotland feature no midwifery staff with accredited mental health training.
Smith also suggested that NHS bosses should increase the number of consultant midwives, while also focusing attention on the qualification of individuals working in the NHS in this department.
In particular, Smith believes it is important to emphasise that newly qualified midwives are offered permanent posts in order to secure the workforce on a long-term basis.
The RCM has previously warned that Scotland faces a “recruitment timebomb” as more than one-third of midwives in Scotland are over 50, with many opting to retire early.
Commenting on the issue, Smith stated that “Scotland’s maternity services are performing incredibly well and we can be justifiably proud of them. The government recognise the value of midwives and good maternity care to the quality of care women receive, and to the health of the women and the population as a whole.”
Smith went on to opine that there are many areas in which the Scottish health service can improve over its existing mental health provisions for women.
“However, there are areas where we can and should be looking to make improvements including better care for pregnant women with mental health problems and better continuity of care. Scotland also needs to be ensuring it secures its future midwifery workforce.”
Responding to the claims of Smith, Public Health Minister Maureen Watt made a commitment to update Scottish maternity services by the end of the calendar year.
Watt commented: “We are committed to ensuring mums and babies get the best care from our maternity services and hugely value the role played by midwives. It is thanks to the high-quality care they provide that more than 90 per cent of women rated their care during pregnancy and birth very positively in a recent survey.”
In addition, Watt also claimed that there is no shortage of midwives working in Scotland, and that the nation in fact has an excellent record in terms of dealing with women’s mental health issues.