General News — 08 July 2014

There are “huge gaps” in the support and care for the mental health of new mothers by the NHS, a parenting charity has warned.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) sent Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) to 194 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England and found just 3% had a perinatal mental health strategy in place.

Out of the 97% with no strategy, 60% said they have no plans to put one in place.bigstockphoto_Mother_with_son_683724

Meanwhile 15% of CCGs were unable to offer any information and directed the charity to local NHS trusts or NHS England, which the NCT said suggested a lack of clarity about who is responsible for commissioning and providing services.

The charity also contacted 193 NHS trusts to ask if they were able to provide a perinatal mental health service with trained specialists.

More than half of all trusts (54%) said that they do not provide any perinatal mental health service while 33 trusts (17%) did not respond to the FOI request.

Only 26% of the trusts contacted provide a dedicated perinatal mental health service while just 13% had a full team in place.

And it was found that 14% are employing only one specialist perinatal mental health midwife or doctor, frequently on a part-time basis.

NCT chief executive Belinda Phipps said: “One in ten mothers experience some form of postnatal depression, but there are clearly huge gaps in the support and care being provided to them across England.

“While we found some areas with excellent care, too often we have found situations where there is no care, or very little care. If there are whole areas where GPs, midwives and health visitors have no training or time to dedicate to this vital service then women will not get the help and support they need.

“For many parents this will result in months of misery, damaging both family relations and children’s well-being. And, in the most extreme circumstances, it will result in tragedy and loss of life.

“We need to see properly staffed and resourced services with clear lines of responsibility and clear targets for delivery. And we need to see that happening urgently. “

NCT is a member of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), a coalition of organisations committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing of women and their children in pregnancy and the first postnatal year.

The MMHA are to launch the campaign #everyonesbusiness to highlight the gaps in provision of maternal mental health services on Tuesday.

This article first appeared on The Daily Mail on 6 July, 2014.


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