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30,000 pregnant women with mental health problems do not get adequate care

NHS England boosts funds to improve mental health services in pregnancy

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 19 August 2016

Gaps in services mean that 30,000 new mothers with mental health conditions are not receiving adequate care, NHS England has admitted.

In an attempt to close the gaps, NHS England is launching a £5 million Perinatal Community Services Development Fund for this year to provide specialist training for existing staff, and to employ new specialists, in order to support new mothers with serious psychiatric conditions. A further £15 million will become available next year and another £40 million in 2018.

Overall, £365 million have been allocated for specialist perinatal mental health services over the next five years, so that, by 2021, 30,000 more women each year will be able to access care and treatment, NHS England said.

Currently fewer than 15% of areas currently provide services to levels recommended in national guidelines, and more than 40% provide no service at all. These specialist community services provide care and support to women with a mental illness in pregnancy or the postnatal period. They also respond to crises, aim to decrease risks to mothers and babies and offer after care following an inpatient stay in a mother and baby unit.

As many as one in five women experience mental ill health during pregnancy or in the year after birth, covering a wide range of conditions including depression, anxiety or in some cases post-partum psychosis. This affects about 2 in every 1,000 new mothers and suicide is the second leading cause of maternal death, after cardiovascular disease.

Dr Giles Berrisford, Associate National Clinical Director for Perinatal Mental Health, said: “We absolutely need to ensure that all women have the access to high quality perinatal mental health care and are committed to addressing current issues and variation. If left untreated, it can have a devastating impact on the woman affected and her family. I am delighted that we can use this fund to build capacity in the community, focusing on what works really well for women and their families and how we can help to spread some of this good practice to other parts of the country speedily and to best effect.”

Abi Wood, Head of Campaigns at the National Childbirth Trust, said: “It’s totally unacceptable that there is such a lack of support for new mothers with mental health problems and we are pleased to see NHS England is delivering on its commitment to make funds available to provide better services. As well as providing specialist support services, GPs, midwives and health visitors need to be trained to recognise vulnerable new mums and give them the help they need. Early intervention could prevent devastating problems later down the line.”

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