Building capacity in perinatal mental health services

NHS England is working to build capacity and capability in specialist perinatal mental health services to help mothers and families get the care and mental health support they need along the perinatal pathway from preconception to postnatal care.

This is a priority under the  Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, and the aim is that by 2020/21 at least 30,000 more women in all areas of England will be able to access treatment, closer to home when they need it.

See our 5YFV policy briefing.

We were commissioned by NHS England and Health Education England to deliver the Building Capacity, Psychiatry Leadership in Perinatal Mental Health Services project.

This one-year programme trained 10 consultant psychiatrists to become perinatal specialists, through a bursary scheme in collaboration with mental health trusts.

The project delivered a host-mentor programme and a masterclass seminar series, to develop the clinical, leadership and teaching skills needed to establish and lead perinatal mental health services. Throughout the programme bursary holders were assessed against the competency framework.

A final review is currently underway to assess and provide evidence for a credential. This is in support of a wider national scoping project to evidence the process of formal accreditation of attainment of competences.

To maximise impact and broaden the projects reach, an additional 15 consultants, engaged in delivering perinatal services, were accommodated on the masterclass programme. And four three-day conferences were developed and delivered to a broader cohort of consultants and senior trainees on developing clinical skills and services.

Impact and reach of the project has been measured and mapped, with approximately 280 psychiatrists trained, in some capacity, over the course of the project.

Map showing UK engagement locations

A perinatal psychiatry competency framework for specialist training in perinatal psychiatry: comprising of competency descriptors outlining the skills, knowledge and performance, with assessment indicators, to assess, manage and treat women during perinatal period.

A pilot credential in perinatal psychiatry: Commissioned by HEE, the project is running two pilot programmes for consultants and senior trainees.

These pilots will collect evidence of competency (aligned with the competency framework) from all participants through a variety of mechanisms and will be formally assessed by an expert panel, before final reporting to HEE.

They are running concurrent to the additional 2018/19 masterclass seminar series, which in turn supports the academic training component of the pilot programmes.

This piece of joined-up work adds further value for our funding partners and our member community by: supporting the Perinatal Mental Health Community Services Development Fund, specifically Wave 2 sites; supporting HEE’s national strategy to evidence and implement a flexible, sustainable and quality training route for a specialist workforce; and, is an important component of the national transformation programme to promote service development and quality improvement.

Both programmes will end July 2019; a formal report will be submitted to HEE, October 2019.

An eLearning module, ‘The perinatal frame of frame of mind’ is in development and will be available in Spring 2019.

As a learning tool for psychiatrists and other specialists engaged in delivering perinatal mental health services, this will be free at the point of access via the College's and other healthcare eLearning websites.

Infographic of the perinatal core module

The project has released a set of perinatal mental health leaflets written jointly by perinatal psychiatrists, women with lived experience of perinatal mental illness, and their partners.

These eight titles are evidence-based and provide expert advice in simple, easy to read language.

They cover the complexity of issues impacting women in the perinatal period from explaining what perinatal services are in a community setting and what is a mother and baby unit, and when and why a woman might to referred to it.

Funded skills development programmes supporting perinatal consultants have been completed.

At present there is no additional funding to support another cohort.

Health Education England are funding the Royal College of Psychiatrists to deliver a masterclass programme for senior trainees in Perinatal Psychiatry. This is to support Perinatal Mental Health Services in England. 

The programme is only open to senior trainees who are working in perinatal mental health teams in England or are senior trainees engaged in research posts in England, relevant to the sub-speciality.

Find out more

Confirmed dates are 4-8 October 2021. It is free to attend. Applications open in April 2021. To register your interest, please email:

Session topics across both programmes include

  • Service development, clinical networks, PQN and workforce planning
  • Prescribing in pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Mental health and capacity law
  • Co-morbidities
  • Parent-infant mental health and therapy
  • The importance of the early years and parent interaction
  • Safeguarding ‘managing complexity’
  • The challenges of working across agencies and disciplines
  • Personality disorder and its implications for maternal mental health and parenting
  • Lived experiences
  • Psychological therapies
  • Forensic aspects of perinatal psychiatry.

Building capacity in perinatal bursary project

Find out more about our one-year programme that trains consultant psychiatrists to become perinatal specialists through a bursary scheme.

Get in contact to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry