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Health visitors to get extra help to spot signs of postnatal depression

Move is part of package of measures to boost maternity and new parent care

Caroline White

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Health visitors are to be given extra training to help them spot the early signs of postnatal depression while better support is to be provided for women who have miscarried, had a stillbirth, or lost a child, health secretary Andrew Lansley has announced.

The enhanced training will apply to the extra 4,200 health visitors the Government has pledged to recruit, as part of a package of measures designed to improve maternity care and the emotional wellbeing of new parents.

For the first time, the NHS will be measured against how well it looks after parents who have miscarried or suffered a stillbirth or cot death. This will form part of the Prime Minister’s “friends and family test” announced earlier this year, which aims to show whether patients had a good overall experience, and whether staff and patients would want loved ones to be treated at their hospital.

The Government has also promised to improve maternity care by making sure that women have one named midwife who will oversee their care during pregnancy and after they have had their baby, and that every women has one-to-one midwife care during labour and birth.

Making the announcement, Andrew Lansley said: “No woman should have to cope with postnatal depression without help and support. The changes we are putting in place today will mean that the NHS is providing even more support to women who have this serious condition.”

Feedback from women about their experiences of maternity care had prompted the named midwife policy, he said, adding that the government would be working with

the Royal College of Midwives, the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors’ Association, and organisations such as 4Children, Mumsnet and Netmums to put the plans into practice.

Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet commented: "Sadly there are many experiences shared on Mumsnet of women not getting the best care when they need it, whether postnatally in hospital, after a miscarriage or stillbirth, or when battling post-natal depression. Today's announcement of renewed focus from the government is a positive step but a sustained effort is needed to ensure mums benefit from these changes locally.”

She added: "Our campaign for Better Miscarriage Care, launched in 2011, called on the government and local NHS trusts to implement a 5-point code of care for families suffering from miscarriage. The announcement that services provided during miscarriage are to be monitored is a real advance towards identifying best and worst practice and therefore towards improving the care received."

Anne Longfield, Chief Executive of 4Children welcomed the announcement and said that their evidence showed that all too often tens of thousands of desperate new mums with postnatal depression were being overlooked.

When help was offered it often came in the form of antidepressants despite the fact that counselling was the primary choice of many,” she said. “The policies announced today respond to these concerns making post natal depression a priority for health professionals and ensuring that counselling and talking therapies are available to support.”  

She urged any woman with postnatal depression or who has had a stillbirth or miscarriage should contact their midwife, health visitor, or GP.

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