Strong focus on women’s health in Bradford

Local clinical leaders have welcomed the chief medical officer’s focus on women’s health in her latest annual report

Mum-and-baby

Many of the recommendations in the report are mirrored by local initiatives that the Bradford NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are working on to improve the health and wellbeing of women in the district.

In her latest annual report, Health of the 51%: women, the chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies makes recommendations on a wide range of health issues, especially obesity, ovarian cancer and ‘taboo problems’ such as incontinence and the menopause.

The report also calls for more research to improve maternal and child mental and physical health: an important issue that Bradford City and Bradford Districts CCGs have a strong focus on.

Perinatal mental illness is relatively common among women and occurs in the period from conception to the baby’s first birthday; it includes depression and anxiety during pregnancy and postnatal depression. Research has shown that depression alone can affect one in seven women.

The CCGs have done lots of work around perinatal mental health over the past 18 months. They have worked with the local hospital maternity units and Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust so that all clinicians, and others working with women during pregnancy and after, are using the same screening tools, advice resources and referral pathways.

Extra funding has gone into developing training packages that are now part of local maternity, health visiting, early years and mental health services.

And the CCGs are working to identify champions for perinatal mental health across all those services as well as raising awareness of the needs of women who have mental health concerns, before and during pregnancy, with local mental health services.

Dr Angela Moulson, the CCGs’ clinical lead for mental health, said: “Improving maternal and child health is a priority for both our CCGs. The stigma attached to perinatal mental health disorders may prevent women from seeking help, and many women are concerned about revealing their true feelings as they think their baby might be taken away.

“The first step for getting better is for women to recognise they are unwell, and then to be prepared to talk about how they feel. We know that many women are likely to tell a health visitor, midwife or GP as the first person they confide in, so the new tools we are providing to health professionals will support their discussions with mothers.”

The CCGs are also hoping to support the development of a ‘women’s health network’ to help tackle health issues and inequalities with input from local women.

“Hearing women’s stories of using different services and their suggestions for improvement can help us review services and develop new ones, where needed,” said Dr Anne Connolly, clinical lead for maternity and women’s health.

“For many women, their own health is less of a priority than the health of their children, parents or husband. Women should know that their health is just as important as the health of other family members, and how to get the advice and information they need to live a healthy life.”

Other initiatives to improve women’s health in Bradford include:

  • re-launching the continence pathway, with a multi-disciplinary team working across the area to provide women with better care
  • focusing on obesity and how health professionals can engage with groups of women from different backgrounds to deliver better services
  • working with public health to promote better ‘planning of families’ with contraception available from primary care as well as from local contraception and sexual health services.