SCOTLAND lags behind other parts of the UK when it comes to caring for mothers with postnatal depression and their babies, an expert group has claimed.

The group of professionals working in the health, charity and education sectors have issued a ten-point call for action by the Scottish Government and NHS boards to address what they call "the fragmented and inadequate level of healthcare" provided to many mothers before and directly after their babies are born.

The blueprint, "Joining the Dots: a call to action on maternal and infant mental health in Scotland," says around 20 per cent of women suffer from anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year.

However, NSPCC Scotland, said their research showed "just five out of 14 health boards have a community perinatal mental health team".

The expert group is appealing to the Scottish Government to make use of UK Government funding it has received to address the gaps in Scotland. They also want health boards to implement the national clinical guideline on perinatal health published five years ago, which they say is currently not being followed.

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: “ We want to see national clinical guidelines implemented in full, along with specific investment like we have seen in England and Wales. Investing in perinatal mental health can help protect two generations at once.”

Helen Cheyne, professor of midwifery at Stirling University, added: “We have particular concerns that women with the most severe problems still do not have equitable access to inpatient care where they can be admitted with their babies. This is something women have a right to in Scotland. We would like to see the recommendations of the recent Mental Welfare Commission report on the inpatient care of women with perinatal mental health disorders being implemented by health boards.”

Maureen Watt, Minister for Mental Health, said: “It is a priority for the Scottish Government to ensure there is effective support for perinatal mental health problems in Scotland. Perinatal mental health is a key area of focus in the forthcoming mental health Strategy. Early intervention is crucial to our 10-year vision to improve mental health in Scotland.

“In line with a recommendation from the Mental Welfare Commission the Scottish Government is establishing a managed clinical network for perinatal mental health. Work has already been progressing on the creation of a new network and it is currently progressing through the approval process at NHS National Services Scotland. We are clear that we want it to be approved and implemented as soon as possible."