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Improved mental health care for pregnant women

Pregnant women and new mums experiencing mental health problems are to receive better support following a funding announcement from NHS England.

mum-and-baby

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, has announced £40m will be allocated to 20 areas of the UK to fund new specialist community mental health services for mums in the immediate run up to and after birth, and help reach 30,000 more women a year by 2021. A further £20m will be allocated next year.

One in five women experience depression, anxiety or in some cases psychosis during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth and costs of perinatal mental ill health are estimated at £8.1 billion each year in the UK, almost £10,000 per birth.

The money will fund:

  • New perinatal consultants,
  • Specialist nurses,
  • Occupational therapists,
  • Psychologists
  • Nursery nurses
  • Community peer support for mums, babies and families
  • More buddying where mums who have had experience of similar issues help other mums in need
  • Increased telephone support

The funding for new mums will see new or bigger teams in those areas providing specialist care for all new and expectant mums with severe mental ill health like severe post-natal depression.

Perinatal Community Mental Health Services provide specialist care for women with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis while pregnant or after birth responding quickly if they become ill, and helping minimise risks to mum and baby by for example giving medication advice, providing lifestyle advice or counselling support or following an inpatient stay promoting hope and recovery.

They also see and treat women who have been iden­tified as at high risk of developing serious illness both at home and in the maternity unit during pregnancy and after delivery as well as pre-conception counselling.

NHS England is also commissioning four new mother and baby units.

Stevens also announced a new recommended standard which states that anyone who walks through the front door of A&E or is on a hospital ward in a mental health crisis should be seen by a specialist mental health professional within an hour of being referred, and within four hours they should have been properly assessed in a skilled and compassionate way, with the correct next steps for their care planned in partnership with them.

NHS England is also for the first time inviting regional A&E Delivery Boards to bid for £30m funding for expert psychiatrists and mental health nurses to provide better care for people with urgent and emergency mental health needs attending A&E and being treated on general hospital wards.

People with mental ill health are three times more likely to end up in A&E than the general population and five times more likely to be admitted to general hospital wards in an emergency. The extra funding will help general hospitals to care for them in the best way.

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “For most parents having a baby is one of the happiest times of your life. But for tens of thousands of new mums, this experience is sadly overshadowed by severe pregnancy-related mental health problems. Now the NHS is taking concrete action to get these mothers and families the specialist mental health support they need.

“It is also the case that many other patients with mental health crises end up using A&E services as their first port of call, so today we are kick-starting the programme to expand the seven day availability of specialist psychiatrist and mental health staff in our major A&Es.”

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