Bradford’s Bevan Healthcare’s successful ‘Starting Well’ preconception programme is being expanded to benefit even more people across Bradford.
‘Starting Well’ empowers women and their families to improve their physical, psychological, and social wellbeing before becoming pregnant.
The practice supports over 5,500 people from ethnically diverse and highly deprived communities, including those experiencing homelessness, refugees, and people seeking asylum, who experience inequalities in maternal, perinatal and child health outcomes.
Bevan has focused on preconception care since 2016 and supports over 700 women a year in Bradford, with 23 women from marginalised backgrounds taking part in the initial Starting Well workshops. More people will now be able to be supported as the programme expands across Bradford.
The programme aims to ensure successful and healthy pregnancies and improve children’s lifelong health. Families are provided with support and are encouraged to take control of their health needs. Practice staff – including GPs, nurse practitioners, social prescribers, and care coordinators – are trained to respond to complex needs, experiences, and life circumstances to ensure people get the right type of care. Community champions with lived experience and strong connections in their communities are also educated to share information about preconception health within their communities.
Dr Anne Connolly MBE, Bevan GP and Leading Women’s Health Expert said: “There are many inequalities all women experience in society but there are inequalities within inequalities for the women we serve at Bevan who include refugees, asylum seekers, people experiencing homelessness, sex workers and Gypsy, Romany and Traveller groups.
“Bevan patients have often experienced trauma or have complex needs such as addictions and mental health problems. The aim of Starting Well is to provide preconception care for marginalised women and their families to empower them to improve outcomes of future generations by optimising their physical, social and psychological wellbeing prior to conception. We also want to enable women to access contraception, if that is what they want so that women become pregnant by choice and not by chance.”
The team at Bevan identified that women were facing various issues around preconception care, such as unplanned pregnancies, barriers in accessing care, and families weren’t always aware of appropriate contraception.
Sadhana Patel, Children and Young People’s Lead at Bevan said: “We have found that a significant proportion of the populations we work with have never considered planning for pregnancy. For them, it’s something that just happens and so Starting Well is about giving families a package of support so they can choose when to become pregnant and if it is the right thing for them at that time. Should they wish to become pregnant then we will work with families to ensure they are in the best possible position to have a healthy pregnancy and child.”
Speaking about the Starting Well programme, one participant said: “It taught me a lot and most especially to respect each other with love, care and understanding. To trust each other and be able to make decisions together either with a friend, husband, boyfriend, or your children.”
Another said: “I feel angry when I think about my past and what I went through. Every time I think about the past it makes me sad. I will now try to leave it in the past and live in the present. I want to have an identity so I can find out who I am and find my purpose.”
A local campaign, ‘It’s a GP Practice Thing’ aims to increase public awareness of how GP practices are working, including community based, non-medical support services which are available to help meet people’s needs.