Department of Health confirms Belfast City Hospital chosen as site for new mother and baby unit

Belfast City Hospital has been chosen as the location for a new mother and baby unit, the Department of Health has announced.

In line with commitments made by the former health minister, all five health trusts in Northern Ireland must now have community perinatal mental health teams in place, the Department of Health also said on Tuesday.

The teams offer support and interventions to women throughout their pregnancy and up to a year after birth, improving the health and wellbeing of mothers, their children and their wider families.

In the absence of an executive at Stormont due to the DUP's boycott of government in response to post-Brexit trading arrangements, senior civil servants have taken on some ministerial duties.

Northern Ireland is also facing a budget shortfall of £450 million this year after civil servants have already made #980 million of cuts.

The Department of Health's permanent secretary Peter May said progress is positive but financial constraints will affect the new unit's opening date.

"I am delighted with the progress that has been achieved on implementing the community perinatal mental health service across the region over the last 12 months and to see the commitment each team has given to making the service a success," he said.

"The Belfast Trust will now begin to prepare a business case for the proposed regional unit on the Belfast City Hospital site.

"While this is a very positive step, the reality is that we are operating in a very challenging financial situation.

"For this reason, timescales for delivery of the unit are dependent on being able to identify the funding required to build and run the new facility."

Dr Judith O'Neill, chairwoman of the perinatal faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists NI, said they welcome the announcement after years of campaigning.

"We traditionally lagged behind the rest of the UK when it came to perinatal mental health services and new and expectant mothers deserved much better," she said.

"While the roll-out of community perinatal mental health services and a new mother and baby unit is a good step forward, we must not be complacent.

"We now need a government to be put back into place at Stormont, so the new unit and wider mental health workforce can be properly funded."

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