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All women to have access to perinatal mental health services by next year

New and expectant mums will be able to access specialist mental health community services across the country by next April, NHS England has announced.

The NHS will spend £23m on rolling out the second wave of community perinatal services to underserved parts of the country, it has been confirmed. NHS England says that it is on course to achieve full geographical coverage.

In 2014, it was estimated that just 3% of the country had good access to specialist perinatal mental health care and last month the Maternal Mental Health Alliance revealed that almost a quarter of women in the UK have no access at all.

The funding forms part of a package of measures, worth a total of £365m by 2021, that will transform specialist perinatal services so that at least 30,000 additional women can access evidence based treatment closer to home through specialist community services and inpatient mother and baby units when needed.

Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for NHS England, explained: “Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family, which is why we are absolutely committed to driving forward improvements in care and ensuring this important area of mental health continues to get the attention it deserves.”

She added: “Women with lived in experience can play a pivotal role when it comes to shaping the services for others and influencing how we plan and deliver care effectively as possible.”

Murdoch said that huge strides are being made thanks to dedicated staff and continuing investment in services. She added that evidence based NHS services are now growing in parts of the country where there was previously limited or no provision at all.

NHS England is also moving forward with plans to open four new, eight-bedded mother and baby units during 2018-19, which will provide specialist care and support to mothers in parts of the country where there has historically been a problem with access.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, part of the NHS Confederation, explained that a fifth of new and expectant mothers experience perinatal mental health issues, which can have “devastating long term effects” on families.

He added: “The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health targeted at least 30,000 more women would be able to receive evidence-based treatment closer to home by 2021 and today’s announcement moves us closer to being able to provide that vital outstanding care for even more women up and down the country.”

Dr. Alain Gregoire, chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said: “In over 30 years working for the NHS I have never seen any national programme produce such a rapid, effective and widespread transformation in services.

“These new, top quality services have led directly to life saving improvements in care for women and babies that will hugely reduce immediate and long term suffering.”


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