Postpartum Psychosis (PP) is a severe, but treatable, form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby. It can happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without any previous experience of mental illness.
Some women, with a history of bi-polar disorder for example, are at much higher risk. PP normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. It can get worse very quickly and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Most women need to be treated with medication and admitted to hospital.
Patients presenting with this illness should ideally receive treatment in their nearest Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). However, the demand for such bed places can be high, creating problems with capacity and overall availability, this can generate delays for patients and lost time for the many healthcare professionals involved in trying to locate a suitable and available unit able to accept a patient in need.
Having considered the problem, NHS staff from the Southampton based Wessex Clinical Networks team, identified that a solution was needed that allows all 17 MBUs across the country to easily share details of their current MBU bed availability, the solution needed to be easy to access and update and would need to provide real time availability across the country.
The solution they’ve created is a simple web based bed-management portal, that all fifteen mother and baby units across the country now use. The simple solution has earned the team an invitation to showcase their innovative idea at this year’s national Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester next month.
Speaking on behalf of the team, Jenny Walsh, Wessex Clinical Lead for Perinatal Mental Health, said : “ Some mothers can develop mental health problems soon after delivery. These can be severe symptoms which deteriorate rapidly and require emergency treatment and they may be in an environment unsuitable for mental health care such as a labour ward in a maternity unit. It’s important they can promptly access care in the right place for a quicker recovery. MBUs are acute mental health wards where women can be admitted with their babies. If her local MBU is full, a woman can be admitted to any unit with a bed. This often meant an inefficient use of time by both MBU staff and referrers who were placing or dealing with multiple phone calls, and a delay for women in accessing time-critical care.
“ We had a vision for everyone to see, at a glance, where MBUs are located, whether they have available beds and their contact details. The system needed to be really easy to use for both referrers and providers and our idea was supported NHS England, who worked with the team to also develop the national standardised referral process.
“We deliberately kept the functionality of the site simple, and limited it to showing current bed availability, future likelihood and a generic referral form. The ease of updating has led to national take up by MBU staff with minimal support.”
With 100 percent of the country’s 16 MBUs updating the site daily, and an average of 596 hits per month, not only is the new site saving valuable staff time, but faster admission to appropriate treatment is leading to better outcomes for the new mothers who develop this illness. This also means clinical staff can spend more of their time treating the patients in need of their care.
Jenny and the team now hope that the simplicity of their model offers the potential to be replicated as a bed management tool for other areas which use nationally sourced beds, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Neonatal Intensive Care, Psychiatric Intensive Care, Learning Disability and Eating Disorders.