Health visitors have urged the government for more investment in early years services to prevent mental health problems later in life.
The calls come following the publication of a report by an independent mental health taskforce and its five-year plan to improve services, which includes a recommendation for the NHS to spend a minimum additional £1bn in 2020-21.
The Institute of Health Visiting highlighted that emotional wellbeing for adults was formed in the early months and years of life, but practitioners were lacking in time and training to support infants’ mental health.
“It is imperative that the government and commissioners support early, preventative action on infant mental health by well-trained health visitors”
A recent survey of around 550 of its members revealed more than a quarter had never received training in infant mental health and that half believed parents did not speak with their children enough, which helps child mental health, said the institute.
In addition, an IHV survey last year found 25% of health visitors were unable to provide every family with a government-recommended postnatal mental health assessment at six to eight weeks after birth, and 75% could not offer this assessment at three months.
In addition to more funding for services that support children up to the age of two, the IHV called for the creation of specialist health visitor posts in perinatal and infant mental health within every UK health visiting service.
Health visitors lacking time for mental health support
Cheryll Adams, executive director of the IHV, said: “Recent IHV surveys into infant mental health show that over 80% of health visitors use their antenatal visit to talk to parents about infant mental health. However, post-birth, they do not have sufficient contact with mothers in order to give adequate ongoing support.”
“It is imperative that the government and commissioners support early, preventative action on infant mental health by well-trained health visitors, in order to lay the foundations for social and emotional wellbeing for all babies,” she said.
“This would significantly reduce NHS spend on mental health services in later childhood and adult life,” she added.