NHS to make perinatal mental health available across England

This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/08/nhs-to-make-perinatal-mental-health-available-across-england


NHS England aims to make services for new and expectant mothers accessible within a year

New and expectant mothers will be given access to mental health services during pregnancy and after childbirth across England within the next year, as health officials focus on providing more help to under-served areas of the nation.

NHS England said that estimates suggested only 3% of the country had good access to perinatal mental health care as recently as 2014, but that it expected to have extended that to 100% by next April.

“Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate,” said Claire Murdoch, the national mental health director for NHS England. “It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family, which is why we are absolutely committed to driving forward improvements in care and ensuring this important area of mental health continues to get the attention it deserves.”

Health bosses are putting into effect a second wave of community perinatal services, costing £23m, as part of a wider package of measures aimed at providing care to 30,000 more women by 2021.

The government estimates that perinatal mental health problems, defined as those health issues occurring during pregnancy and in the first year after childbirth, affect between 10% and 20% of women.

In order to improve the geographical coverage it can offer to people with such issues, NHS England committed £365m in funding. It plans to provide specialist care closer to patients’ homes using through community services and inpatient mother and baby units.

“Women with lived-in experience can play a pivotal role when it comes to shaping the services for others and influencing how we plan and deliver care effectively as possible,” Murdoch said.

“What we are now starting to see is evidence-based NHS services growing in parts of the country where there used to be limited or no provision at all.”

NHS England plans to open four new eight-bed mother and baby units throughout 2018-19 in parts of the country where access has historically been a problem.

Justine Roberts, the founder of Mumsnet, said the community’s campaign for better postnatal care had highlighted the “breadth of perinatal mental health vulnerabilities, and has shown how many women struggle on with symptoms that make them feel miserable or worse”.

Dr Alain Gregoire, who chairs the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said: “These new, top quality services have led directly to life saving improvements in care for women and babies that will hugely reduce immediate and long term suffering.”

The president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Prof Wendy Burn, also welcomed the move, saying that all of the psychiatrists who completed the body’s perinatal bursary scheme would have perinatal consultant psychiatric jobs in their local areas.

She said: “This, together with the new wave of targeted funding, will help ensure that new and expectant mums will be able access specialist perinatal community services in every part of England by April 2019.”

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