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Specialist mental healthcare offered to all new mums by 2020

Pregnant or recent mothers will receive specialist mental healthcare to prevent lifelong illnesses or poor outcomes to the baby, prime minister David Cameron will announce today as part of a four-year £290m package.

In a keynote speech on vulnerable groups and poverty, Cameron will reveal a string of packages to tackle the more pressing issues of mental health nationwide – but focusing less on preventative measures, however, as shadow mental health minister Luciana Berger MP pointed out.

Part of this includes creating new community perinatal teams and more beds in mother and baby units to avoid the postcode lottery that creates links between mental ill-health and almost one-quarter of all maternal deaths up to a year after birth.

Speaking to the Guardian, NHS England chief Simon Stevens pledged a huge expansion of existing services designed to tackle the unmet needs in maternal mental health.

“At the moment about 40,000 women who are pregnant or within the first year of having their baby have a severe mental health problem,” Stevens said.

“But of those 40,000 only about 10,000 are at the moment getting access to specialist perinatal mental health services. Three out of four are missing out. But by the end of the decade we are going to make that a universal offer, so all 40,000 will get access to a local specialist team.”

Another £247m will be earmarked over the next five years to ensure A&E departments in at least half of England’s acute hospitals have 24-hour mental health services. As well as improving mental care, the move is expected to slash admissions and reduce lengths of stay, alleviating some existing pressures in emergency departments.

As previously announced, new waiting time targets will be rolled out for teenagers with eating disorders and people experiencing psychosis, and crisis home resolution and home treatment teams will continue to be deployed across community healthcare systems.

The prime minister will say today: “Mental illness isn’t contagious. There’s nothing to be frightened of. As a country, we need to be far more mature about this. Less hushed tones, less whispering; more frank and open discussion.

“We need to take away that shame, that embarrassment, let people know that they’re not in this alone, that when the clouds descend, they don’t have to suffer silently. I want us to be able to say to anyone who is struggling, ‘talk to someone, ask your doctor for help and we will always be there to support you’.”

The government’s announcement, much of which Berger argued contained nothing new, comes a few weeks ahead of the delayed yet much-anticipated mental health taskforce report, chaired by Mind’s Paul Farmer.

Further investment and service innovation is expected to be announced shortly as a direct result of the taskforce’s report, which will also recommend a five-year mental health strategy for the NHS.

Farmer commented: “The prime minister rightly recognises some key priorities that have been identified by the mental health taskforce, which will soon be publishing its full report. Children and young people, pregnant women and new mums, and those in crisis urgently need better services and support.

“But it doesn’t stop there. The taskforce will be setting out the road map for the next five years, a transformational plan that will require a commitment at every level, from government right through to every local community.”

(Top image c. David Jones, Press Association)


Rachel Cameron   18/01/2016 at 22:28

If this happens it will be fundamental. Having been a service user of perinatal services I know the struggles they are up against. This can only be a good use of money.

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