Mothers: Depressive Illnesses

Department of Health written question – answered on 25th November 2015.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps he is taking to reduce the incidence of depression among new mothers.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Minister of State, Department of Health

Reducing the incidence of depression among new mothers is a high priority for the Government.

The Mandate from the Government for the National Health Service includes an objective for NHS England to work with partner organisations to reduce the incidence and impact of postnatal depression through earlier diagnosis, and better intervention and support.

The NHS Mandate also includes an objective that every woman has a named midwife who is responsible for ensuring she has personalised care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and during the postnatal period. This will help clinicians to identify perinatal mental health problems as early as possible and to give women the support they need.

To help achieve this we have increased the number of midwives by over 1,800 and the number of health visitors by over 3,500 since May 2010. In addition, 6,400 midwifery students and an extra 1,000 health visitors are in training respectively.

We are also working to improve the provision of perinatal mental health services which is why it was announced in the March budget that the Government would invest an additional £75 million over the next five years, £15 million per year, to support women with mental ill health in the perinatal period. NHS England is leading a work programme to ensure that this extra money is spent in the right way, at the right time and in the right places. This work is being carried out collaboratively with partner organisations, including the Department and Public Health England, clinical experts and service users.

Health Education England (HEE) has committed to ensure that the right knowledge and training is available so that the NHS is skilled in how it looks after women’s mental as well as physical health. The HEE Mandate includes an objective that there will be specialist perinatal mental health staff available for every birthing unit by 2017. HEE is also committed to working with the medical royal colleges to support specific perinatal mental health training being incorporated into the syllabus for doctors in postgraduate training by 2017.

The Department has funded the Institute of Health Visitors which has trained over 600 perinatal mental health visitor champions to enable health visitors to identify and manage perinatal depression and other maternal mental health conditions.

The Department has also funded the Maternal Health Care Policy Research Unit to undertake a project to develop and pilot test a perinatal mental health indicator which would reflect the mental health care a woman receives at certain critical perinatal time-points; the antenatal booking, the early postnatal period, and approximately one year postnatally.

In line with the approach on other access and waiting time standards, NHS England appointed the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health to run expert engagement and produce implementation outputs, for example commissioning guidance and model pathways. An Expert Reference Group has been formed to oversee this work. NHS England plan to be able to make the recommendations of the group public as soon as possible.

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