Perinatal mental health services to get multi-million pound cash injection

NHS promises specialist mental health support for mothers, regardless of where they live 

NHS promises specialist mental health support for mothers, regardless of where they live 

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Specialist perinatal mental health support will be available to women in every part of England by next April, the NHS has pledged.

The health service is investing £23 million on providing a second wave of community perinatal services to 35 underserved parts of the country in a bid to achieve full nationwide coverage.

As recently as four years ago it was estimated that only 3% of the country had good access to perinatal mental health care.

Specialist community perinatal mental health teams can include nurses, doctors, psychologists and occupational therapists and offer psychiatric and psychological assessments and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems in the perinatal period. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with an existing or past severe mental illness.

Push to improve community-based services

The investment announced yesterday builds on £40 million spent on 20 sites in 2016 to establish or expand community mental health services in England.

More than 7,000 mothers have had treatment so far, and it is hoped more than 30,000 additional women will have access to care by 2021 as part of an overall £365 million funding package.

NHS England mental health director Clare Murdoch, who is a mental health nurse, said: 'Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate. 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.

'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.'

The NHS also plans to open four mother-and-baby units, each with eight beds, during 2018 and 2019 to provide support in areas of the country where access has traditionally been difficult.

Commenting on the second wave of services, Maternal Mental Health Alliance chair Alain Gregoire said: 'The new developments announced in England look set to eliminate a long-standing and serious postcode lottery, and will undoubtedly make England the world leader in mental health care for mothers and babies.'

NHS guidance has been published to help local health care systems as they put their plans into action and support community teams to deliver high-quality and safe care. The Perinatal Mental Health Care Pathways sets out five new examples that promote improved patient treatment and care – depending on the mental health problem and the phase of pregnancy or the postnatal period.

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