Thumbswood Mother and Baby Unit

Thumbswood Specialist Mother and Baby Unit

The Thumbswood Mother and Baby unit, situated on the ground floor of the Mental Health Unit, is a purpose-built, self-contained unit providing specialist assessment, care and treatment for mothers suffering from mental illnesses associated with childbirth. The unit is next to the QE II hospital which allows access to paediatric and midwifery services. Thumbswood has been designed to provide a safe and therapeutic environment for mothers and babies up to one year old. The unit consists of six single rooms each equipped with a baby’s cot, washing facilities, television and telephone point. It has a nursery with a safe play area, a lounge area with television socket, a kitchen/diner, separate kitchen for preparation of baby foods, bathrooms, showers and separate toilets, laundry facilities and a relaxation room. All facilities are suitable for physically disabled mothers.

Thumbswood Nursery  Thumbswood Lounge

The aim of Thumbswood is to:

  • Maintain the safety of mother and baby, by treating the mother’s mental illness as early as possible
  • Offer support to the families and carers involved in the mothers care
  • Provide a joint service between health and social care professionals in the mothers locality to ensure comprehensive follow-up care
  • Provide a service sensitive to the needs of the women and their cultural differences in parenting practices
  • Sustain and facilitate the developing relationship between mother and baby and other family members

The multi-disciplinary team (MDT) on Thumbswood consists of:

Consultant Psychiatrist 
Ward  Doctor
Staff Grade Psychiatrist
Specialist Nurses
Experienced Care Assistants 
Occupational Therapists
There is liaison with local Health Visitors, GPs and Community Services.

Bedroom Small

Treatment provided at Thumbswood includes:

  1. Comprehensive treatment of the mother’s mental health problem.
  2. Education on the particular illness/symptoms affecting the individual mother and other members of the family
  3. Occupational therapy which includes relaxation classes, confidence building, goal setting, art therapy and trips into the community
  4. Individual and group psychotherapy sessions
  5. Postnatal groups/discussion groups on aspects of baby’s care, development and parenting and responsibilities and adjustments to demands of baby. 
  6. Baby massage sessions
  7. Daily cooking sessions
  8. Practical guidance and support on baby’s care and safe parenting
  9. Providing opportunities within 1:1 sessions or within therapeutic group meetings for each individual mother for ventilation of feelings and empower her in problem solving
  10. We also run a Father's Group which provides support for the father either on an individual basis or within the group
  11. Weekly review of mother’s treatment and progress by the MDT.
  12. In addition to care and support delivered by the Thumbswood team, we also have on-site support from midwives, obstetricians, gynaecologists and paediatricians.


We are happy to receive referrals from any area but referral should be from one of the following:

  • Consultant Psychiatrist
  • GP
  • Referral from Maternity within the QEII Hospital.

The main criteria for referral is that the mother suffers from a mental illness associated with child birth. We also accept referrals of mothers with multiple births. We do not consider requests from court, solicitors or social services for pure Parenting Assessments.

Referral can be made in writing or by telephoning the Senior Sister on the Ward.

Wherever possible inpatients are assessed prior to admission to ensure their suitability. The outcome of assessment is available to the referrer within 24 hours.  Admissions to the Unit only take place between the hours of 9am to 9pm daily and are planned in advance. 

Thumbswood uses the recovery approach model of care to ensure that when mother and baby are discharged they are able to function independently in the community, thereby reducing the need for re-admission.

The average length of stay is 7 weeks. During this time, mothers have an individualised treatment plan including Occupational Therapy and ward based activities and work through a series of care levels. Leave into the community is built up gradually, from day leave without baby to up to a week with baby. This is achieved by early use of CPA, and working closely with local CMHTs, GP, Health Visitor and other professionals. Thumbswood uses an open, collaborative approach so that mothers are involved in all decisions relating to them and their baby's care plan.

Occasionally it is not possible to discharge mother with baby but the information gained during admission helps to inform professionals about appropriate care. Thumbswood does not carry out formal parenting assessments.

Elizabeth Evans, Unit Manager
Phone 01707 224850

Visiting Hours:
2.30pm - 4.30pm and 6.30pm - 9pm  Monday to Friday
10am - 9pm Weekends

Other services available:
Hospital chapel and chaplain
Advocacy service
Family planning
Creative therapies
Mobile library
Mobile shop

There is limited car parking on-site which costs 2.50 for 2 hours, 4 for 5 hours, 6 for 24 hours.

If you require information on bus/train routes please use the Hertfordshire Journey Planner to help with your journey.