MSPs promise to raise depression care with ministers

(left to right) Christine Grahame, Jenny Miller, Jim Hume and Claudia Beamish. MSPs pledge support for Borders health and social care services.
(left to right) Christine Grahame, Jenny Miller, Jim Hume and Claudia Beamish. MSPs pledge support for Borders health and social care services.
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SINCE it reopened 10 months ago, the postnatal depression (PND) service in the Borders has had more than 50 referrals and has helped about 40 women and their familites, writes Andrew Keddie.

Yet the service can only operate for one-and-a-half days a week because of lack of funding.

That was just one of the issues raised by the Borders Voluntary Community Care Forum (BVCCF) which hosted its annual panel session with local MSPs in Galashiels last Monday.

BVCCF represents the interests of Borderers in the planning and provision of community care and includes service users and providers and other local voluntary organisations. About 40 members were able to air their concerns to a panel comprising Chrstine Grahame (SNP), Jim Hume (Lib Dem) and Claudia Beamish (Labour). John Lamont (Con) was unable to attend for personal reasons but the BVCCF will arrange an early meeting to discuss the issues raised.

The panel heard that the PND service receives no funding from statutory sources, despite excellent feedback and referrals from NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council.

“In light of the research demonstrating the importance of early years interventions to improved life chances, particularly relating to mental health and youth crime, the MSPs were asked if they could offer any indication of resources to support such services at local and national levels,” said BVCCF press officer Kathleen Travers.

“All three MSPs concurred that this was a matter of concern which required cross-party support and agreed to take it up with relevant ministers.”

A postnatal depression service was set up in Borders in 2001 and funded by Crossreach. For the nine years it was in operation, the service evolved and expanded into a three day-service offering individual and group therapy, art therapy and infant massage.

Although it was successful and widely used, funding was withdrawn early in 2010 and the existing service had to close.

Public concern and individual involvement by many people led to a new local charity being formed as PND Borders on March 31 last year. Since then, volunteers have tackled the complexities of establishing a registered charitable company that will be responsible for offering help to the mothers and families of the Borders who are affected by postnatal depression.

Ms Travers said the politicians had also lent their support to the campaign from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Network (DHHN) in the Borders to have SMS (short message service) texting made available for its members to allow them to contact special dedicated numbers for health centres and hospitals to make and cancel appointments.

“It was agreed that this was a national issue and, again, it will be followed through, with the likelihood of a petition from the DHHN being presented at Holyrood,” said Ms Travers.

Other matters highlighted at the meeting included welfare reforms, out-of-hours GP services, the stigma perceived by some mental health service users and general poverty in the region.

BVCCF co-ordinator Jenny Miller said: “We were delighted the MSPs took time out from their busy schedules to hear about the key issues for those who work in the care sector and the people who use their services.

“The fact there was such a willingness from the three to offer support and suggest ways of addressing these concerns was much appreciated.”