Dozens of new mental health hubs are being set up to help thousands of new, expectant and bereaved mothers, NHS leaders have announced.
NHS England said that the 26 new hubs being set up across the country will bring together maternity services, reproductive health and psychological therapy under one roof.
By the end of 2021-22 around 6,000 women will receive care and treatment for a wide range of mental health issues from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after giving birth to others with a severe fear of childbirth, it added.
NHS England said that 10 sites will be up and running within months while the rest will open by April next year.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said: “Every woman has a unique experience with pregnancy and motherhood and some will need extra support to cope with mental health issues that can range from anxiety to severe depression so I am delighted that mothers across all areas of the country will be able to access this help if they need it.
“The NHS is here for everyone who needs help and the expansion of specialist care through the rollout of these maternal mental health services will strengthen the services already in place, enabling us to improve the quality of care and outcomes for many women.
“I would encourage any mum who needs this support to come forward safe in the knowledge that her mental health and wellbeing are of paramount importance and she should not feel ashamed of accessing the help she needs.”
As well as offering psychological therapies for new and expectant mothers the clinics will also provide training for maternity staff and midwives, NHS England said.
Every area will have one by April 2024 as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to increase access to psychological support for women before, during and after pregnancy, it added.
Dr Giles Berrisford, NHS England’s national speciality advisor for perinatal mental health, said that around a quarter of women experience mental health problems in pregnancy and during the 24 months after giving birth.
He added: “These maternal mental health services will provide vital support, meeting the specific needs of these women.
“Their establishment will significantly contribute to the overall commitment of the NHS to enable at least 66,000 women with moderate to severe mental health difficulties related motherhood to access specialist care by 2023-24.”
The 10 early implementer sites are:
– Birmingham & Solihull
– Shropshire Telford & Wrekin
– South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw
– Lancashire and South Cumbria
– Hampshire and Isle of Wight
– Kent and Medway
Jude Diggins, the Royal College of Nursing’s interim director of nursing, policy and public affairs, said: “These new, improved services could not come at a more important time.
“Having a baby is a life-changing experience and no one should have to go through this without the help and support they need.
“Sadly, this pandemic has placed even more strain on existing perinatal mental health services as isolation, loneliness and other factors take hold.
“The challenge for these new, more integrated, services will be, as before the pandemic, ensuring there are enough highly-skilled, mental health nursing staff to safely and effectively care for patients when our health and care services are already dealing with widespread shortages and vacancies.”