NHS England has set out plans to provide more support for pregnant women and new mums suffering mental illness, and for mental health crisis cases presenting to A&E.
According to the plans, £40 million is to be allocated to 20 areas of the country 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 £20 million will be allocated next year.
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 issues, as well as more buddying and telephone support. Four new mother and baby units have also been commissioned.
In addition, NHS England is introducing a new recommended standard whereby 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 4 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.
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.’
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said: ‘Patients in crisis, and expectant and new mothers who are suffering from severe mental health problems need urgent support and care.’
He went on: ‘So this investment is fantastic news and will help make sure patients get the care they need, when they need it. As the Prime Minister has made clear, this government is determined to address the struggles faced by people with mental ill health.’
Janet Fyle, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), commented on the news: ‘The RCM welcomes that this announcement has acknowledged the need for more skilled expert staff and is focused on improving care within the community and providing appropriate support services around this. However, the RCM 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.’
She concluded: ‘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.’