South West London and St George’s perinatal mental health service praised in Parliament


The perinatal mental health service at South West London and St George’s Mental NHS Trust has been praised by Richmond MP Sarah Olney for the work it is doing to successfully support new mothers who struggle with their mental health.

Sarah said she was extremely pleased that the service has been able to continue supporting women throughout the Covid-19 pandemic during a Backbench Business Committee debate on “Giving Every Baby the Best Start in Life” in the House of Commons on Tuesday 9 November.

Sarah Olney’s comments followed a meeting with Akvinder Bola-Emerson, the clinical service lead for the Trust’s perinatal mental health service on Monday 11 October.

Sarah said: “I was privileged to be able to visit Springfield University Hospital in Tooting recently to meet the perinatal psychiatry team for the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. I was extremely pleased to hear about the work the trust is doing in successfully supporting new mothers who struggle with their mental health, and particularly that it was able to maintain its services during the lockdown and after.

“Akvinder Bola-Emerson, the clinical services lead for perinatal psychiatry, stressed in particular the need for peer support but also the importance of health visitors, whom she described as the “eyes and ears” of perinatal mental health services.”

The perinatal mental health service is a specialist mental health service for people who are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or have a baby up to 12 months old. The team is made up of different professionals including psychiatrists, mental health nurses, psychologists and allied health professionals such as occupational therapists, social workers and nursery nurses.

Sarah continued: “The visit highlighted for me that we also need better provision for new and expectant fathers. Currently only mothers can be formally diagnosed with a perinatal mental health problem. Springfield provides services for fathers, but it is currently able to identify mental health issues in fathers only when they accompany a mother who is attending the hospital for perinatal mental health issues.”

Akvinder Bola-Emerson said: “It was a pleasure to meet Sarah and to share with her the specialist work the perinatal team provides to support mothers who struggle with their mental health. Up to 20% of new or expectant mothers experience mental ill-health during pregnancy or after birth and therefore ensuring they receive the right support is so important. If left untreated, mental health issues can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman, the child and the wider family.

“Our specialist perinatal mental health service provides care and treatment for women with complex mental health needs and helps to support the developing relationship they have with their baby. We also offer women with mental health needs advice for planning a pregnancy. We aim to help and support women to stay as well as possible during pregnancy and after birth by making sure that they, their partners and family have access to the expert advice, support and treatment they need.”