NHS to Overhaul Mental Health Services

The NHS is set to overhaul services for women who develop mental health problems around childbirth.

This initiative is intended to help reduce the suffering caused by postnatal depression and reduce the number of new mothers who kill either themselves or their baby.

NHS England has indicated its decision to invest £40 million into new specialist treatment centres for the 20% of women whose pregnancy, birth or experience afterwards triggers serious psychological problems.

Anxiety, depression and psychosis are common following childbirth.

Claire Murdoch, the national mental health director of NHS England, has opined that the proposed centres will help end a postcode lottery.

Currently, two out of three women affected by these issues miss out on vital assistance.

“It’s self-evidently true that the current provision of these services is inadequate. There is a big postcode lottery. Some areas just do not have specialist community perinatal services available,” Murdoch stated.

The planned expansion of care would enable a further 30,000 women to receive care by March 2021, according to NHS England.

Money will be invested in new community mental health units solely for women with perinatal mental health problems in 20 parts of England.

They will be staffed by consultant psychiatrists specialising in such conditions, nurses with experience in the field, occupational therapists, psychologists and nursery nurses.

Each will also run a buddying service in which women who have already experienced childbirth-related mental health problems will support those going through that or at risk of that.

Childbirth-related mental health conditions are estimated to cost the UK £8.1bn a year, or about £10,000 per birth.

Prof Lesley Regan, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, believes that there is significant room for improvement in the way that the NHS deals with this issue.

“Around one in five women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year after delivering their baby, and one quarter of all maternal deaths between six weeks and a year after childbirth are related to mental health problems. Despite these alarming figures, in almost half of the UK, pregnant women and new mothers have no access to specialist maternal mental health services and only 3% of [NHS] clinical commissioning groups [in England] have a maternal mental health service strategy”.

Janet Fyle, the Royal College of Midwives’ professional policy advisor, was lukewarm towards the proposal, indicating that every maternity unit needed to have a specialist maternal mental health midwife on staff in order to be successful.

“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 heartbreaking and we can do better as a country”.

Childbirth-related mental health conditions are estimated to cost the UK £8.1bn a year, or about £10,000 per birth.


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