New and expectant mums will be able to access specialist perinatal mental health community services in every part of the country by April next year, according to NHS England.
The health service is spending £23 million rolling out the second wave of community perinatal services to underserved parts of the country and NHS England says it is on course to achieve full geographical coverage.
The aim is to help thousands of women access evidence-based treatment that is closer to home and when they need it, through specialist community services and inpatient mother and baby units.
Specialist community perinatal mental health teams can offer psychiatric and psychological assessments and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems during the perinatal period. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.
Teams can be made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nursery nurses and administrative staff, who all work together to provide a comprehensive service to mums, depending on what their individual needs are.
The new funding, which has just been agreed, builds on £40 million previously allocated to 20 sites in 2016 to establish new or expand current specialist perinatal mental health community services. NHS England says over 7,000 mums have accessed expert care and treatment so far. While some areas are taking a phased approach to the development of services, NHS England says a plan for full provision has been promised by 2021.
NHS England is also pressing ahead with plans to open four new, eight-bedded mother and baby units (MBUs), throughout 2018/19, which will provide specialist care and support to mothers in parts of the country where access has historically been a problem. A major milestone for mental health has just been reached in Devon, following the opening of an interim four bedded unit last month, in advance of a full new unit, which is already under construction, opening next year.
One in five women will experience a mental health problem during their pregnancy and in the first year after birth, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most common.