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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

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.


Delivering a skilled workforce

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.


Wider engagement

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. 


Screenshot of perinatal programme mapping


Hear from the bursary holders in our video:

If you are unable to view the video in your browser please see it on YouTube.


Building tools, supporting training

The project has undertaken to develop an array of tools to underpin and support training pathways and the national strategy, to ensure sustainable improvements to delivering perinatal mental health services.

A batch of patient leaflets for the user, carer and wider-community support network will be published shortly: 

  • What are perinatal mental health services?
  • Mother and baby units
  • Postnatal psychosis: carers/partners
  • OCD: leaflet for carers
  • Children’s social services and safeguarding: Advice for women with mental health problems in pregnancy and the first year after birth
  • Lithium in pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Sodium Valproate in women of childbearing potential
  • Using anti-psychotic medication in pregnancy.

An eLearning module, the ‘perinatal frame of frame of mind’ is in development and will be available by the end of the year.

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 RCPsych and eLearning for Healthcare websites.


Image of the perinatal frame of mind core module


What next?

The broader project to deliver a skilled workforce, beyond the bursary programme, continues:

For consultants two additional masterclass series have been commissioned and will commence from September in London and Manchester.

London (RCPsych HQ)

  • 17 September 2018
  • 3 October 2018
  • 14 November 2018
  • 5 December 2018
  • 15 January 2019
  • 24 January 2019
  • 5 and 6 February 2019
  • 26 and 27 March 2019.

Manchester (Midland Hotel)

  • 12 September 2018
  • 10 October 2018
  • 15 November 2018
  • 6 December 2018
  • 16 January 2018
  • 15 February 2019
  • 27 and 28 February 2019
  • 19 and 20 March 2019.

Both series will accommodate 20 participants.

Successful applicants will be expected to attend all of the classes as developing relationships within the groups is key to future liaison, networking and peer support.

Applications are invited from psychiatrists who have taken up consultant perinatal psychiatrist posts in the last one to two years or who are about to take up new consultant posts in perinatal psychiatry by September 2018. Priority status will be given to those who meet these criteria, as will individuals who are working in areas of need.

For ST4-ST6 trainees a five-day course in perinatal psychiatry will be held in Birmingham from 21-25 January 2019. This will be an intensive, comprehensive course, led by experts in the field and delivered through didactic teaching, seminars and discussion groups. This will be free to attend for participants (but is not inclusive of travel and accommodation expenses).

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.

How to apply

Please submit:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • A personal statement setting out why you should be offered a place, confirming that you can and will attend all classes
  • Evidenced support from your employing Trust for attending and any costs incurred from travel etc.

Closing dates:

  • Masterclasses - 30 June 2018
  • Trainee course - 30 September 2018

Email expressions of interest to


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