NHS England has announced how £40m worth of investment will be allocated to provide more community support for pregnant women and new mothers experiencing mental illness.
A further £30m has also been earmarked for improving care for patients with mental health problems attending accident and emergency in crisis.
“Healthcare professionals are often the first point of contact for a woman suffering with mental health problems”
The £40m is to be allocated to 20 areas to fund new specialist community mental health services for mothers in the immediate run up to, and after, birth. A further £20m will be allocated next year.
The funding will see “new or bigger” teams in those areas providing specialist care for all new and expectant mothers with severe mental ill health like severe post-natal depression, said NHS England.
It noted that one in five women experienced depression, anxiety or in some cases psychosis during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth.
The money will fund new perinatal consultants, specialist nurses and nursery nurses, as well as community peer support via “buddying” and phonelines involving women with experience of similar issues.
NHS England said it was also commissioning four new mother and baby units. The body’s chief executive Simon Stevens will announce the investment at a Mind conference on Tuesday.
“We cannot continue to read the constant reports of the number of women killing themselves”
He will also reveal a new recommended standard that anyone who attends 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 referral.
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, under the new standard.
In addition, NHS England said it was inviting regional bids for part of £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 wards.
The perinatal schemes – covering 90 clinical commissioning groups – that have successfuly bid for funding from the initial £40m pot will be led by the following organisations:
- Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
- Birmingham South Central CCG
- Bradford & Airedale District Care NHS Foundation Trust
- Bristol CCG
- Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust
- Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
- Cornwall STP
- Gloucestershire CCG
- Herts Valleys CCG
- North East Essex CCG
- Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust
- New Devon CCG and South Devon and Torbay CCG
- Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
- Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust
- Nottingham City CCG
- Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust
- South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
- South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
- Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
- The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Examples include Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group, which will work in partnership across three CCGs to expand a recently established small team into a wider area, and develop community support groups to help mothers as well as buddying and telephone support.
Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group will work across seven CCGs to expand its current service to reduce waiting times for mothers, introduce outreach work, and more training for other professionals to support early detection and intervention.
Meanwhile, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust will expand its current service to more women and improve the education on offer to health professionals and the public, aiming to reduce stigma and support early diagnosis and integrated care.
The Royal College of Midwives said it had been calling for more community focused services and recognition that some women could be treated nearer their home, where they can be monitored by a specialist team to stop their condition escalating.
Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the college, said: “The RCM welcomes that this announcement has acknowledged the need for more skilled expert staff and is focussed on improving care within the community and providing appropriate support services around this.
However, she added that the college would like to see a specialist maternal mental health midwife “in post in every maternity unit and trained to the standards developed by the RCM”.
“We cannot continue to read the constant reports of the number of women killing themselves, because they were not identified earlier and treated or because of the lack of trained staff or as a result of lack of services – it’s heart breaking and we can do better as a country,” she said.
“Providing these services that are right for women and in the right places with trained midwives and psychiatrists and psychologists will save the NHS money in the long term and more importantly begin to stop the toll that pregnancy related mental ill health exerts,” she said.
Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “This initiative will not only provide invaluable support to women in the community, but also ensure that women can be referred to specialist services in a timely manner.
“Buddying and telephone support initiatives will also ensure that women feel able to share their own experiences and prevent feelings of isolation,” she said.
She added: “Healthcare professionals are often the first point of contact that a woman suffering with mental health problems reaches out to and we must ensure that all staff involved in the care of women during pregnancy and the first year after birth have relevant education and training in perinatal mental health – this includes both communication and listening skills.”