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Trusts invited to bid for new funding to help mothers with serious mental illness

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A new funding programme intended to help an extra 30,000 expectant mothers who experience perinatal mental health problems by 2021, has been launched by NHS England.

The £5m perinatal community services development fund, announced today, is intended to improve the availability of high quality care for women experiencing severe mental health problems.

“I am delighted that we can use this fund to build capacity in the community”

Giles Berrisford

It forms part of an overall £365m plan to offer evidence-based perinatal support to 30,000 more women over the next five years, which was unveiled last month by NHS England in its Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

Currently in England only 15% of areas provide specialist maternal mental health services to the level recommended in national guidelines and over 40% provide no services at all, noted NHS England.

It added that as many as one in five women experienced mental ill health during pregnancy or in the year after birth, from depression, anxiety to post-partum psychosis.

The £5m pot is the first of three payments pledged to the scheme, with £15m due in 2017-18 and £40m the year after.

NHS England has also promised an additional £33.5m over 2019-20 and 2020-21, which will be allocated to clinical commissioning groups.

Local health leaders can submit proposals for a slice of the £5m funding until 16 September. They will be able to request funding for up to three years to bolster existing services or set up new ones.

“We know that suicide is a leading cause of death during pregnancy”

Louise Silverton

NHS England said successful schemes would implement new ways of improving specialist perinatal mental health community care in line with the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

Trusts and clinical commissioning groups submitting funding proposals must show “detailed plans to improve services and measure outcomes”, said NHS England.

They will need to show how they will either “widen the reach of their service to more places or improve resources for a small team to help more people”, it said.

Additionally, they must be “explicit” about how the growth or creation of a team will provide extra care to more women, and how new staff will be trained adequately to fill the specialist roles. NHS England has published guidance to support applications.

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.

“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,” he said.

The Royal College of Midwives said it was pleased to see NHS England “delivering on its commitment” to improve service provision for perinatal mental health problems.

Royal College of Midwives

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Louise Silverton

Louise Silverton, RCM director for midwifery, said: “The current level of service and care not only in England, but across the UK is unacceptable.

“Every trust with maternity services should have a specialist maternal mental health midwife in post to work with community specialist teams to implement appropriate care pathways for women with pregnancy related mental health problems,” she said.

She added: “We know that suicide is a leading cause of death during pregnancy and in new mothers in the UK and up to 20% of women are affected by mental health problems at some point in pregnancy or the postnatal period.”

“Midwives play a central role in promoting the emotional well-being of women and their babies and in ensuring that all women with mental health concerns get appropriate and timely care,” she said.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Guidelines at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, said: “NICE welcomes the announcement of this fund today, which will help services across the country ensure more women receive the best care as recommended in our guidance.”

NICE’s 2014 guideline on antenatal and postnatal mental health and quality standard, published in February this year, cover both treatment and providing women with the information and support they need before they become pregnant.

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