Borders mothers to lose post natal care service

BORDERS mothers from across the region who have suffered from post-natal depression have benefited from the care and counselling received at the CrossReach centre in Galashiels, but this service is due to close next month, not because of lack of demand but because of funding problems.

GPs and counsellors in Duns, Eyemouth and other parts of Berwickshire have referred patients to the service to help them cope with the symptoms of post natal depression but despite recognition that the Borders has the highest incidence of post natal depression in Scotland and demand reaching unprecedented levels, the 70,000 a year service is being lost to the region.

The important role it plays in the lives of women suffering from the symptoms is obvious when CrossReach's post-natal depression services manager, Tessa Haring, explains: "Some of our mothers travel for over an hour by bus to get to us.

"It shows how desperate people are and how highly valued the service is."

Latest figures show that 1,100 babies were born in the Borders in 2008, and national figures suggest that up to 50 per cent of mothers will experience some degree of post natal depression, with 15% suffering debilitating symptoms.

Lack of family support, the feeling of being isolated, and insufficient numbers of health visitors all combine, resulting in what has been described as "a generation of new mothers in crisis".

A poll conducted by website last year revealed that 52 per cent of women reported signs of depression and 60 per cent felt they had not seen their health visitor enough during their child's first year.

Centres like the Galashiels service are a lifeline for many, one woman admitting that she probably wouldn't still be alive if she hadn't received help from counsellors at the centre.

CrossReach, funded by the Church of Scotland, is one of the largest social care agencies in Scotland, providing care and support for thousands of people in need, dealing with: addictions, children and families, counselling and support, criminal justice, homelessness, learning disabilities, mental health, and older people.

They employ 2,000 staff in 80 services from Shetland to the Borders and have an annual expenditure of over 45 million, of which less than 1% comes directly from the Church of Scotland.

Most of their funding comes from local authorities, but they also rely on donations and legacies to help continue our vital work.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: "It is with great sadness that due to changes in our funding, CrossReach has had to make the difficult decision to close East Lodge.

"If the appropriate funding could be secured then we would be able to continue providing this support.

"The previous manager and current head of service met with the Borders health board on separate occasions and were both informed there was no funding available.

"As is true for other public bodies and charities, the global financial situation has affected our ability to fund the services to the quality we insist upon and it is with huge regret we take this decision."

CrossReach post-natal depression services manager, Tessa Haring, said: "It is a huge regret that our funding no longer allows us to provide this support.

"The Church of Scotland has always been able to pick up the deficit but it can't do that any more.

"We tried very hard to get funding from NHS Borders but they haven't the money either."

NHS Borders director of integrated health services Ralph Roberts said the board was "saddened" to hear of the imminent closure of the centre.

"We explained the process for accessing voluntary funding in the Borders and made them aware of a number of funding options," said Mr Roberts.

"As far as I am aware they were following these routes to secure funding and have made no further formal approach to us.

"We provide a wide range of support services and this includes mental health, GP and community services such as health visitors."

Local politicians from all parties have pledged support for the centre and are involved in trying to find a solution that would allow the Borders to retain its only dedicated post natal depression centre.

But as belt tightening continues across the public and voluntary sector it looks like the Borders dedicated post natal depression centre is destined to be yet another victim of the recession.