• NHS England has told four trusts they are the preferred providers of four new mother and baby units
  • The successful bidders were notified last month, but final contracts are still being negotiated
  • The MBUs are part of a £40m investment in inpatient perinatal care

The preferred providers of four new specialist inpatient units for mothers with serious mental health problems to stay with their babies have been selected, HSJ can reveal.

NHS England has told four trusts they have been selected as the preferred bidders to run new eight-bed mother and baby units as part of a £40m investment in inpatient perinatal care.

HSJ can reveal the four providers are:

  • Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust;
  • Lancashire Care Foundation Trust;
  • Norfolk and Suffolk FT; and
  • Devon Partnership Trust.

HSJ understands that while the providers were informed of their successful bids late last month, the final contracts and go-live dates are under discussion and are expected to be confirmed in the summer.

NHS England published a prior information notice inviting bidders to run the three new units in September, with providers being given until January to submit their bids.

Originally the proposal was to open new eight bed units in East Anglia, the North West and South West, but NHS England extended this to include a new unit in the South East Coast as well.

NHS England said the regions were chosen because they were areas “with particular access issues around inpatient MBU capacity”.

Each unit will provide care for women experiencing severe mental health problems or who may be at high risk of becoming mentally unwell in the perinatal period, including very serious conditions such as post-partum psychosis.

The units enable treatment and recovery for mothers while allowing their relationships with their babies to develop. They are staffed by multidisciplinary teams across psychiatry, nursing and nursery care.

The new units form part of a funding package of £365m pledged to improve perinatal mental health services over the next five years, with £40m allocated for the development of new MBUs from 2015-16 to 2018-19.

The new units build on the work of the 15 existing facilities. In its recent Next Steps document, NHS England said the plans will increase perinatal bed capacity by 49 per cent.

It also comes in the wake of 20 new specialist perinatal mental health community teams being funded through the £60m perinatal mental health community services development fund launched in August 2016.