Leeds Hospitals Charity is the lead NHS charity responsible for distributing the stage 2 funding in West Yorkshire and Harrogate on behalf of NHS Charities Together.

In August 2021, Leeds Hospitals Charity received £1.1 million of NHSCT funding to support 22 projects across West Yorkshire and Harrogate. The projects were selected based on what we know will make the greatest impact and to support groups within our local community. 

One of those chosen projects was delivered by Touchstone, an organisation providing mental health and wellbeing services to over 10,000 people a year across Yorkshire, aiming to inspire communities and help transform lives. Touchstone received over £49,000 to help support their vital work and in particular support for mothers in the perinatal period, who have low to moderate mental health and wellbeing needs. The perinatal period refers to women’s mental health during pregnancy and the first year following a child’s birth. Around 1 in 4 women experience mental health difficulties during this period.

Read more: NHS Charities Together - Our partnership

The MyPlan Perinatal Service supported mothers across Bradford and offered a range of support and help for families. Referrals came mainly through midwives and health visitors, with some referrals coming from other perinatal services in Bradford and neighbourhood support workers. Through funding this service has provided individualised support for mothers, offering up to 12 one to one sessions, which focused on coping strategies and tools to help manage their symptoms, as well as providing emotional support. These sessions were also an opportunity for mothers to work with Touchstone on creating their own individual MyPlan Support Plans, which would help set realistic and achievable goals and a tool they were able to use in the future to help continue to manage their mental health and wellbeing.

Jayne Croston, Perinatal Lead at Touchstone said: “Perinatal mental health is so important, and it was really positive we were able to offer this specialist service to mothers through the funding from NHS Charities Together. It enabled us to have these face-to-face sessions and really connect and build relationships of trust and support. Our approach is always centred around the individual.”

This service also provided peer support and social opportunities for parents to connect with others. Wellbeing walks were set up across 4 local parks in Bradford, providing an opportunity for parents to connect to help tackle social isolation and improve confidence. It also promoted the benefits of being outdoors and among nature, highlighting the positive impact this can have on wellbeing. Touchstone also created a WhatsApp group for parents to connect and share experiences, which is now fully peer led.

Throughout the time this service ran, Touchstone continued to work alongside and connect with other services and professionals in Bradford to ensure parents and family needs are being met and supported.

Read more: NHS Charities Together Funding Impact

Jayne adds that, “It was highlighted throughout the COVID lockdowns that there was very little support for mothers with low to moderate perinatal mental health. Through the funding and support from NHS Charities Together and Leeds Hospitals Charity we have been able to provide a vital service for mothers across Bradford and hopefully enabled them with support and resources to continue managing their mental health and wellbeing into the future.”

Amanda, one of the mothers Jayne supported has shared the positive impact this service has had for her and her family: “Jayne introduced herself into what I would call one of the most challenging and difficult times in my life. I was feeling very low and struggling with my mental health daily.

From only a few months ago to now I can see and feel a massive change in myself and my mental health. Everything seems possible, coping strategies, face to face visits, video calls and having someone to talk to and share my problems with has worked wonders! I’ve gone from everything feels impossible and stressful to manageable and I’m always looking for ways to better my future for me and my daughters.”

Touchstone are positive that there will be a lasting impact for this type of support. Local services in Bradford are now using their model to expand their perinatal services in postcode areas by recruiting mental health workers to offer one to one support. Although this specialised service has now come to an end, the peer support group on WhatsApp is continuing to grow and is still active, with parents also meeting socially and accessing these outdoor spaces. Touchstone are hopeful that parents will continue to use their MyPlan Support Plans as a self-help tool into the future to manage their mental health and support recovery.

Find out more about Touchstone's work