Mental health hubs for thousands of new, expectant and bereaved mothers will be set up around England as part of a pilot project.
NHS England said the 26 hubs, due to be open by next April, will offer physical and mental health checks and psychological therapy for around 6,000 mothers by the end of 2022.
Every NHS area will have a site by April 2024 as part of the NHS Long Term Plan‘s commitment to increase access to ‘evidence-based psychological support’ for mothers through the centres.
The hubs will provide care for mental health issues such as post-traumatic disorder and severe fear of childbirth, as well as specialist training for maternity staff and midwives.
Dr Giles Berrisford, NHS England’s national specialty adviser for perinatal mental health, said the services will provide ‘vital support’ for the one in four women who experience mental health difficulties between pregnancy and 24 months after birth.
Five years ago, 40% of the country had no access to specialist perinatal mental health care, although the situation has improved with specialist services now available in each of the 44 local NHS areas.
But although more than 30,000 women were seen by a specialist perinatal mental health services in 2019/2020, the NHS has promised that 66,000 women with mental health difficulties related to motherhood will be able to access specialist care by 2023/24.
Emily Slater, chief executive of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said: ‘For the more than 1 in 10 expectant and new mothers experiencing mental health problems, and the increased numbers as a result of the pandemic, there needs to be a system of care available to support them.
‘These new services will enable more women than ever to access vital perinatal mental health care.’
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘The pregnancy and the birth of a new child are a special time for families but if things go wrong it can have a huge impact on women, their partners and even other children.
‘That is why the NHS is developing maternal mental health services to help them get back on track as part of our Long Term Plan.’
The first 10 sites will open around England ‘within months’ in:
- Birmingham & Solihull
- Shropshire Telford & Wrekin
- South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw
- Lancashire and South Cumbria
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight
- Kent and Medway
The rest are due to be running by April 2022, with plans for all 44 local NHS areas to have one by April 2024.
Earlier this month, the NHS announced it would invest £95m from 2021/22 to make maternity units in England safer after the care scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.