NHS England has announced plans to allocate £40 million to 20 areas of the country to help fund new specialist community mental health services for mums pre- and post- birth.
One in five women experience depression, anxiety or in some cases psychosis during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth, with the costs of perinatal mental ill health estimated to be more than £8.1 billion each year in the UK.
The new cash stream will help expand specialist care for all new and expectant mums with severe mental ill health like severe post-natal depression, funding new perinatal consultants, specialist nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and nursery nurses as well as community peer support.
There will also be more buddying and telephone support where mums who have had experience of similar issues help other mums in need, NHS England said.
A further £20 million has been promised for next year, while the government has also commissioned four new mother and baby units (MBUs), all under the aim of helping 30,000 more women a year by 2021.
In further moves to improve care, NHS England is planning to introduce a new recommended standard that says anyone visiting A&E or already on a hospital ward suffering a mental health crisis should be seen by a specialist mental health professional within an hour of referral, and within four hours they should have been properly assessed in a skilled and compassionate way.
It is also inviting regional A&E Delivery Boards to bid for £30 million 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 hospital wards.
“Patients in crisis, and expectant and new mothers who are suffering from severe mental health problems need urgent support and care,” said health secretary Jeremy Hunt. “So this investment is fantastic news and will help make sure patients get the care they need, when they need it”.