ARFON MS Siân Gwenllian has called for a mother and baby unit to be established in North Wales, having raised the issues with First Minister Mark Drakeford in the Senedd last week.

The MS has pointed to a disparity of provision for mothers in North Wales, with the calls made after Uned Gobaith (the Tonna Hospital’s mother and baby unit (MBU)) celebrated its one-year anniversary.

Uned Gobaith provides specialist inpatient perinatal mental health care for families, based within the Swansea Bay University Health Board.

The Arfon MS co-sponsored an event to celebrate the milestone, ‘A Year of Uned Gobaith’ which highlighted the development of the MBU, its achievements and challenges across the year, and the difference it has made to families.

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But Ms Gwenllian claims there is a fundamental lack of parity in the provision for mothers outside the south, expressing her concerns on the floor of the Senedd last week, asking the First Minister Mark Drakeford for an update on services to support women in Arfon who are affected by perinatal mental health problems.

The First Minister said that a recurrent investment of £3million has allowed health boards across Wales to develop community perinatal mental health teams.

He referred specifically to a specialist nurse that works within Siân Gwenllian’s constituency, working as part of the wider perinatal mental health team.

But the Arfon MS claimed that the current provision was insufficient, pointing to the fact that one in four women can develop perinatal mental health issues. She called for current talks with the Royal Colleges on provision for the north to be progressed at a faster pace.

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Yesterday, the Deputy Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle MS, confirmed that there were talks with NHS England about setting up a unit in north west England that would also serve mothers from the North Wales, including parts of Powys.

Siân Gwenllian MS said in the Senedd last week: “I am concerned about mothers in my constituency and across the north of Wales.

“There is no access to a specialist unit close to home for these mothers.

“Will you commit to developing specialist support in an appropriate location? You talk about a nurse, but we need an appropriate location for women in north Wales. Will you prioritise moving forward with the creation of this provision? It has been in the pipeline for some time.

“We need to see action.”

Mark Drakeford MS responded: “I understand the points that the Member makes about in-patient provision in north Wales, and much work has been done already by the specialist services committee on this issue.

“In order for an independent unit to operate, it would need to meet the standards required by the relevant royal colleges, and that includes the number of patients that would be required to sustain a specialist unit of this kind.

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“That's what people in north Wales are currently discussing: can we establish a unit in North Wales where the royal colleges will be content to give their seal of approval for that to move forward?”

Following yesterday’s announcement by the Deputy Minister, the Arfon MS has questioned the suggestion for locating a new MBU for mothers from the north of Wales in north west England.

She said: “For many women in Wales, north west England does not represent a location ‘close to home’ and how will the unit be able to provide a service through the medium of Welsh?

“I await more clarity about this suggestion, but it seems rather ludicrous to expect women suffering severe mental health problems to travel long distances across the border with their babies and not having Welsh-medium provision would be completely unacceptable. “