NHS England has announced today that further funding will be made available to improve the mental health of around 3,000 pregnant women and those who have recently given birth, as part of an ongoing programme.
The £23m funding should see women getting specialist mental healthcare, in person and via online consultations including over skype, through investment in community-based services, according to the government arms’-length body.
“Improving community access to mental health care is the cornerstone of NHS plans to improve services”
It noted that the extra money formed part of an “overall package of increasing access to perinatal care” that also includes more staff and new specialist support units, as previously reported by Nursing Times.
A five-year programme of £365m investment was announced in 2016, which NHS England said would see 30,000 women get specialist mental health care during the early stages of motherhood by 2021.
As a result, the new funding for community perinatal services comes on top of additional spending since 2016 of £40m, which will see over 6,000 new mothers receiving specialist mental health care by April 2018.
Service developments include four new mother and baby units that are due to open this year and the recruitment of over 200 specialist staff, including more than 100 nurses and therapists, said NHS England.
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The body highlighted that perinatal mental ill health affected up to 20% of women during pregnancy and in their first year after giving birth. It noted that it had become an increasingly prominent issue in recent years, with high-profile figures including the Duchess of Cambridge speaking out.
Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for NHS England, said: “Improving care, investment and focus on this issue, is crucial.
“Having expert support available, including working with people’s partners as well as their wider family and social networks, to help manage the upheaval, means that women who are experiencing mental health issues don’t have to suffer and struggle alone,” she said.
“Improving community access to mental health care is the cornerstone of NHS plans to improve services,” she added.