NHS England sets out steps to improve mental health care for pregnant women and new mums and help those attending A&E in crisis

NHS England today sets out plans to provide more support for pregnant women and new mums suffering mental illness as well as to improve care for the many people with mental health problems attending A&E in crisis.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England will tell the Mind conference on Tuesday that £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 mums will see new or bigger teams in those areas providing specialist care for all new and expectant mums with severe mental ill health like 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, and helping minimise risks to mum 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 which offers hospitals and mental health providers joint financial incentives to improve identification of and support for people with mental health problems attending A&E frequently, and 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 full list of successful perinatal schemes is below and all areas will expand or introduce new staffing at different levels.

Bristol CCG, for example will work in partnership across three CCGs to expand a recently established small team into a wider area, introduce new electronic records across different organisations’ systems, and develop community support groups to help mums as well as buddying and telephone support from women who have experienced similar issues.

Nottingham City CCG will work across seven CCGs to expand the current service aiming to reduce waiting times for mums, introduce outreach work, and more training for other professionals to support early detection and intervention.

And South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust will aim to expand the current service offering it to more women in the area with reduced waiting times. They will also improve the education on offer to health professionals and the public in this area aiming to reduce stigma and support early diagnosis and integrated care.

One comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I gave up Lithium when I became pregnant I was never given any support to do this. Yet it was very clear that lithium was dangerous during pregnancy. It is a disgrace that no support is ever given to support people to come off. Things have not changed.