In memory of Margaret Oates

Here at APP we have all been deeply saddened to hear of the death of the hugely inspirational Dr Margaret Oates.

A Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at Queen’s Medical College, Nottingham, Dr Oates made significant strides in perinatal mental health care, positively impacting many women and families in the UK and beyond. Indeed, so significant is her legacy that there are two MBUs named after her - one in Nottingham and one in East London.

Dr Giles Berrisford, APP Trustee said:

“Dr Margaret Oates OBE has been an enormous inspiration to many throughout her life. She dedicated her working life to improving the lives of women and families affected by perinatal mental illnesses. She recognised the importance of the obstetric pathway and the psychiatric pathway working together, so that no women are left behind. She led to the opening of the Mother and Baby unit in Nottingham which is now one of two eponymously named MBUs in England – the other being in Homerton, East London

Dr Oates worked tirelessly to influence national policy– changing and shaping maternal mental health forever. She was the 1st Chair of the Clinical Reference Group for perinatal mental health for NHS Specialised Commissioning, advising on how MBUs should be commissioned.

The expansion of services around the UK since 2016 is a direct legacy of Dr Oates’s inspirational work. She has inspired many to pursue careers and to develop services in perinatal mental health. We have a lot to be very thankful to Dr Margaret Oates for and she will be greatly missed.”

Dr Oates was the pioneer behind the sub specialty of perinatal psychiatry and set up the specialist faculty within the Royal College of Psychiatrists. She was also responsible for developing the work of the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in relation to mental health, identifying the impact of mental illness on the mortality of women during pregnancy and into the postpartum period.

She also established a series of ‘red flag’ warning signs to enable healthcare professionals to identify women at risk of perinatal mental illness, and established the Perinatal Quality Network as part of the College Centre for Quality Improvement, embedding lived experience at the heart of the system.

Dr Jess Heron, APP CEO said:

“Dr Oates worked with the same zeal and dogged determination whether she was addressing care inadequacies for an individual woman or putting systems in place which would improve the care of all women with severe postnatal mental illness.

She worked hard to ensure that perinatal mental illness and suicide were included in the confidential enquiries into maternal deaths, giving us a clearer picture as to the devastating impact of PP - and other serious mental health problems - on the lives of women and families nationally.

Her advocacy and truly anarchic approach has undoubtedly saved lives, and we her legacy will live on for generations to come”.

Members of our volunteer community who have been personally supported by Dr Oates have also shared their words and memories, including Cheryl McAulay-Wainwright who said:

“I first met Margaret in 2004 when I was suffering with postpartum psychosis. Margaret was my consultant at the time and I will be forever be deeply grateful for the care that she provided me. Her smile was warming and made me feel safe and at home. It was during a time where I had lost myself - and she helped me find me again.
I went on to work within the Hopewood Mother and Baby Unit when it was first opened and was named after Margaret Oates. I was lucky enough to spend time working alongside her colleagues who would often talk about what a presence Margaret was and the huge developments she made for National Perinatal services and the care that women received.
I wouldn't be where I am today without the care that Margaret and her team gave to me.
Dr Margaret Oates OBE is a true inspiration and will be missed by the women and children she cared for and of course many more.”

Our thoughts are with Dr Oates’ family. We will never forget all that she has done in the field of perinatal psychiatry and beyond.