NHS commits to better care for expectant and new mums with mental ill health

11 September 2017

Simon Stevens, chief executive at NHS England, has announced the NHS trusts set to deliver more personalised care to expectant and new mums with serious mental ill health.

The four new Mother and Baby Units will allow women to stay with their babies while receiving the specialist care they need.

As many as one in five women experience mental ill health during pregnancy or in the year after birth, covering a wide range of conditions including severe depression, anxiety and in some cases postpartum psychosis, affecting around two in every 1000 new mothers and strongly associated with maternal suicide.

These new units will provide in-patient support for women and their babies with the most complex and severe needs who require hospital care, who are experiencing severe mental health crisis including very serious conditions like post-partum psychosis.

Local mental health provider, Devon Partnership NHS Trust, will be one of the four selected providers, with the first new mental health Mother and Baby unit expected to open in 2018.

There are currently 15 dedicated mother and baby units, the four new eight-bedded units will allow  more women to receive treatment with their babies. Areas will also receive a share of £15m capital funding to support this ambitious development.

NHS England is also increasing bed numbers in the existing units, which will expand capacity by 49 per cent by the end of 2018/19.

Dr Jo Black, Clinical Director for Perinatal Mental Health Services at Devon Partnership NHS Trust, said:  "We have worked hard to develop some excellent services for pregnant women and new mums in Devon over the past few years.  The level of care and support that they now receive is far more comprehensive than it was only a few years ago.  In many ways, we have been at the forefront of perinatal mental health services nationally.

"The new Mother and Baby Unit, which will be in Exeter, represents another major step forward for us.  No longer will women have to travel long distances outside the county to receive the care that they need - and this will make a huge difference to them and their families."

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive at NHS England, said: “The NHS is serious about delivering more personalised care to new Mums and that includes better specialist mental health care for those who need it.

“Having a baby should be one of happiest, most life-changing experiences and every Mum should have the opportunity to bond with her baby, while receiving the care she needs and remaining as close to her families as possible.”

Mother and Baby units provide specialist care for mothers who are experiencing severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis. They enable the treatment and recovery of the mother whilst ensuring the developing relationship with their baby and its physical and emotional wellbeing.

The expansion of services puts resources in areas with the most need - improving access to evidence-based treatment is shown to increase recovery rates leading to better outcomes for women and their babies.

Last year Simon Stevens also announced an additional £40m for 20 new specialist community perinatal mental health services for new and expectant mums. These will help reach at least 2,000 women with severe and complex mental health problems over the next year and 9,000 more women by 2018/19.

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

These recently announced measures are part of a wider drive to improve pre and postnatal care for all mums which include greater continuity of care where women have access to a small team of midwives during pregnancy that know about their care and wishes and roll out of personalised care plans, both ensuring that they get the care and support they need.

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