‘Inspirational’ Ruth rewarded for helping new mothers

A GROUNDBREAKING scheme to help servicewomen cope while on maternity leave earned the Royal Navy officer behind it an inspirational award.

Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Ruth Guest was singled out for her ‘Project Rebalance’ pilot initiative at the fourth Women in Defence Awards.

The Portsmouth-based naval doctor was concerned that there were stark differences between the support civilian and military personnel receive after giving birth – and began a pilot study into the issue.

The mother-of-two felt from personal experience that there was a gap between the health care services of the MOD and the NHS – a gap servicewomen on maternity leave might fall into.

She feared servicewomen may be at increased risk of perinatal mental health issues (pregnancy and the year after delivery), due to a host of factors related to life in the forces. Should any woman fall into this gap, the likelihood of seeking and obtaining help would be small.

More than 200 personnel responded to her survey – confirming her fears and revealing that many servicewomen felt there were barriers to them seeking support, they often felt isolated, and were unaware of some of the services available to them.

All of which prompted Surg Lt Cdr Guest, currently working in a civilian doctors’ practice, to produce the ‘maternity passport’ – a simple leaflet to help servicewomen on maternity leave

•         spot the signs and symptoms of perinatal mental health issues in themselves, friends and family;

•         increase awareness of resources available;

•         increase awareness of entitlement to NHS assessments/treatment;

•         give extra information to NHS healthcare providers to help them care for military personnel.

 

At the moment it’s still a bit surreal! It has been a surprise – and an honour – and I’m hoping it shows people that service improvement is open to all.

Lt Cdr Guest

The ‘passport’ has been made available at medical centres at HMS Nelson and Northwood military headquarters northwest of London, with Lt Cdr Guest currently analysing the results.

But her efforts so far were deemed sufficiently worthy to take the Inspirational Award – one of ten titles contested at the annual WiD event, this year held in London’s Guildhall.

“At the moment it’s still a bit surreal! It has been a surprise – and an honour – and I’m hoping it shows people that service improvement is open to all,” Lt Cdr Guest said.

“If you have an idea of a way things can be done better, or can see a need within the service, your voice is important, and you can make a difference.
“The only limits you have are those you accept from others or you place on yourself. This is the time to push boundaries, to ask why and to challenge old ways of thinking. It is important not only to ride the momentum of change but to maintain it for those coming after us.”

More than 470 nominations were received from across the defence community – including the armed forces, MOD Civil Service, GCHQ, MI5, and defence industry. 
“Yet again, we’ve been blown away by the inspiring achievements and courage of the finalists and winners,” said Angela Owen, founder of Women in Defence UK.

“These are truly exceptional people, who deserve to be celebrated. They exemplify our watchwords for the year ‘Deeds not Words’, as rather than comment or complain, they actively work to make defence a better place for all.”

For the full list of winners, see: https://www.womenindefenceuk.com/awards-2019