NHS England has now confirmed that pregnant women and new mothers will be able to access specialist perinatal mental health services in every part of England by April 2019.
Currently, access to perinatal mental health services is something of a ‘postcode lottery’ in that there is a significant disparity across the country in the availability of such services. In 2014 the health service estimate that only 3% of the country had good access to perinatal mental health care. To solve this disparity, the NHS are planning to spend £23 million on community pre- and postnatal support to all parts of the country to ensure there is full geographical coverage.
Abigail Wood, Head of Campaigns at the NCT, has said: “Hopefully this will mean the end of the postcode lottery pregnant women and new mums have had to put up with for so longer…While its all well and good to improve specialist services, we need more focus on the recognition of mental health issues in the first place.
“More money going into early identification would mean fewer mothers suffering with mental health problems and needing specialist care further down the line. Recent NCT research found nearly half (42%) of new mothers’ mental health problems did not get picked up by a doctor or other health professional.”
Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director for NHS England, has said: “Mental 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.”
Specialist community perinatal mental health teams will be created to offer assessments, care and treatment for women with complex or severe mental health problems during the perinatal period. They will also be able to provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy. NHS England are also planning on opening four new mother and baby units across England throughout 2018/19. We are fortunate in Hampshire as we have a mother and baby unit located in Winchester but in many areas of England, women are not so fortunate.
Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), said in 30 years of working for the NHS, he has never seen any national programme produce a “rapid, effective and widespread” transformation in services. He has said: “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.”
We are very pleased to hear of this new national programme and consider that it will assist with eliminating the unacceptable postcode lottery of availability of perinatal mental health services across England.
Here at Swain & Co Solicitors our specialist Mental Health Lawyers have represented many patients detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended) who have suffered a form of perinatal or postnatal mental health issues.
Swain & Co Solicitors work tirelessly to assist vulnerable people and ensure that their rights under the Mental Health Act are observed. If you, a family member or friend are experiencing problems or are detained under the Mental Health Act contact our team today on 023 92 483322.