By: 7 December 2023
Innovative solutions can help close mental health gap for new mums across Scotland

Claims that some new mums are experiencing gaps in access to vital mental health services can be bridged by forward-thinking ideas from NHS Scotland innovators, says InnoScot Health. 

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) – a charity campaigning for better specialist services –recently claimed that while progress has been made, persistent regional variations in perinatal care mean some women in Scotland remain at risk. 

Recognising Scottish Government efforts through its publication of the Mental Health and wellbeing strategy in June, MMHA Chief Executive Laura Seebohm said: “Mental health problems during pregnancy and after birth are common but they can also be incredibly serious. 

“Whilst the availability of specialist care has improved in recent years, there is still a postcode lottery. 

“We need to see a clear action plan for how the Scottish Government intends to build on the progress made.” 

The charity believes that around one in five women develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or within the immediate years after having a baby. 

However, formal NHS Scotland partner InnoScot Health insists that it is an area with massive opportunity for innovation and investment in breakthroughs and reducing inequalities in women’s and pregnancy health. 

The organisation recently issued a pregnancy and perinatal innovation call for the NHS Scotland workforce’s deep expertise and insight to come to the fore with fresh ideas and solutions in order to provide the right care for every woman and baby, regardless of location, income, or ethnicity. 

Head of Innovation, Robert Rea, pictured, said: “The impact of good pregnancy and perinatal health across Scotland is not to be underestimated. 

“When pregnancies and very early childhood are free of complications, it means that children are better equipped to achieve good health outcomes over the course of their lives, creating positive knock-on effects for the health of their families for generations to come. 

“That, in turn, means a positive effect on Scottish society and the population’s wider wellbeing. 

“It is also a burgeoning area for innovators with genomics and artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly evidencing promise in helping to bridge gaps in unmet need – from the ability to predict complications before they happen to targeted treatments if they do arise. 

“Hand in hand with heightened awareness, personal stories being increasingly shared, and more open discourse around mental health and wellbeing issues, we stand at an opportune moment for accelerating women’s health at pivotal times for both mother and baby. 

“Now is the time to give mental health innovation the attention and investment it deserves to ensure we’re creating a Scotland where every pregnancy is as safe and healthy as possible.” 

Inspiring the workforce to come up with new ways of working is essential, and to help encourage staff to come forward, an InnoScot Health package for NHS Scotland staff includes support up to the value of £25k for initial seed funding, regulatory support, project management, and the extensive innovation expertise of its highly experienced team. 

Ideas that InnoScot Health are looking for could include: 

  • Support for women experiencing mental health problems before and after delivery 
  • Devices for managing and monitoring pregnancy 
  • Innovations to improve labour and delivery 
  • Technologies for neonates needing specialist care 
  • Improving outcomes for mothers with co-morbidities 

Robert continued: “We believe that it is important for us to get our message out there. That’s why we’re sponsoring an event entitled Medical Problems in Pregnancy: Optimising Multi-Disciplinary Care which is taking place at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on Friday 1 December. 

“We expect this one-day hybrid conference to provide a comprehensive update on key contemporary topics and offer practical approaches to the management of frequently encountered clinical scenarios.” 

Over the last four years, the Scottish Government says it has invested over £26m to support health boards in developing services, including 11 new and three expanded perinatal mental health teams.