NHS England set to fund improved mental health care for pregnant women and new mothers

NHS England has set out plans to provide better care for pregnant women and new mums suffering from mental illness.

The sum of £40m is to be allocated to 20 areas of the country to fund new specialist community mental health services for mums in the immediate run up to and after birth, and help reach 30,000 more women a year by 2021. A further £20m will be allocated next year.

The funding for new mothers will see new or bigger teams in those areas providing specialist care for all new and expectant mums with severe mental ill health difficulties, such as severe post-natal depression.

It will fund new perinatal consultants, specialist nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and nursery nurses as well as community peer-support for mums, babies and families. There will also be more buddying and telephone support where mums who have had experience of similar issues help other mums in need.

Perinatal Community Mental Health Services provide specialist care for women with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis while pregnant or after birth responding quickly if they become ill. They minimise risks to mother and baby by for example giving medication advice, providing lifestyle advice or counselling support or following an inpatient stay promoting hope and recovery.

They also see and treat women who have been iden­tified as at high risk of developing serious illness both at home and in the maternity unit during pregnancy and after delivery as well as pre-conception counselling.

NHS England is also commissioning four new mother and baby units (MBUs).

Mr Stevens will also reveal a new recommended standard that says anyone who walks through the front door of A&E or is on a hospital ward in a mental health crisis should be seen by a specialist mental health professional within an hour of being referred, and within four hours they should have been properly assessed in a skilled and compassionate way, with the correct next steps for their care planned in partnership with them.

NHS England is also for the first time inviting regional A&E Delivery Boards, which oversee urgent and emergency care locally and include partners from hospitals, councils and other local bodies, to bid for £30m funding for expert psychiatrists and mental health nurses to provide better care for people with urgent and emergency mental health needs attending A&E and being treated on general hospital wards.
People with mental ill health are three times more likely to end up in A&E than the general population and five times more likely to be admitted to general hospital wards in an emergency.

This extra funding will help general hospitals to care for them in the best way.

This follows the recent announcement of a national scheme that offers hospitals and mental health providers joint financial incentives to improve identification of and support for people with mental health problems attending A&E on a regular basis. It is hoped that this will help to reduce the number of overall avoidable attendances of people with mental health problems at A&E.

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “For most parents having a baby is one of the happiest times of your life. But for tens of thousands of new mums, this experience is sadly overshadowed by severe pregnancy-related mental health problems. Now the NHS is taking concrete action to get these mothers and families the specialist mental health support they need.

“It is also the case that many other patients with mental health crises end up using A&E services as their first port of call, so today we are kick-starting the programme to expand the seven day availability of specialist psychiatrist and mental health staff in our major A&Es.”

One in five women experience depression, anxiety or in some cases psychosis during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth and costs of perinatal mental ill health are estimated at £8.1 billion each year in the UK, almost £10,000 per birth.
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said: “Patients in crisis and expectant and new mothers who are suffering from severe mental health problems need urgent support and care.

“So this investment is fantastic news and will help make sure patients get the care they need, when they need it. As the Prime Minister has made clear, this Government is determined to address the struggles faced by people with mental ill health.”

Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director, said: “We have committed to delivering evidence-based treatments for an extra 1m people by 2020 and it’s a significant achievement to be able to show how a substantial number of those people will be helped just nine months after launch.

“New and expectant mums suffering perinatal mental illness and those experiencing mental health crises attending A&E, which we think could be as many as one in five, are among those groups who need our help immediately.  With effective, compassionate care people can have much better health outcomes and get on with their lives.”


The fertilisation of an ovum by a sperm cell: the start of pregnancy. Full medical glossary
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in life, combined with a sense of reduced emotional well-being Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
An organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
A health professional who helps to improve a person's level of independence and their management of the activities of daily living. Full medical glossary
the period from conception to birth Full medical glossary
A specialist in the management of mental health conditions. Full medical glossary
A severe mental disorder in which the person affected loses contact with reality. Full medical glossary
A psychiatric disorder featuring psychosis along with disordered speech, thinking and behaviour and often accompanied by hallucinations and withdrawal from ordinary social interactions. Full medical glossary