The NHS is launching a new programme that will help 30,000 new or expectant mums to overcome serious mental ill health each year.
As many as one in five women experience mental ill health during pregnancy or in the year after birth, including depression, anxiety and post-partum psychosis.
This affects about two in every 1000 new mothers, with suicide the second leading cause of maternal death after cardiovascular disease.
As a first step in preventing these tragedies, NHS England is launching a £5 million Perinatal Community Services Development Fund.
The fund aims to close a gap in the availability of high quality care for women with severe or complex conditions.
Currently, fewer than 15% of areas provide services to levels recommended in national guidelines, and more than 40% provide no service at all.
These specialist community services provide care and support to women with a mental illness in pregnancy or the postnatal period.
However, the cost of perinatal mental ill health to society is estimated at £8.1 billion for each annual birth cohort, or almost £10,000 per birth.
Overall, £365m has been allocated for specialist perinatal mental health services over the next five years, so that, by 2021, 30,000 more women each year will be able to access care and treatment.
The programme is in response to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, which said that by 2020/21, NHS England should support at least 30,000 more women each year in accessing perinatal mental health services.
Dr Giles Berrisford, associate national clinical director for perinatal mental health, said: “We absolutely need to ensure that all women have the access to high quality perinatal mental health care and are committed to addressing current issues and variation. If left untreated, it can have a devastating impact on the woman affected and her family.
“I am delighted that we can use this fund to build capacity in the community, focusing on what works really well for women and their families and how we can help to spread some of this good practice to other parts of the country speedily and to best effect.”
NHS Trusts, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) can now submit proposals, focusing on increasing access and improving quality of these services.
Local systems will be able to request funding for up to three years, and total funding available will increase to £15m next year and £40m in 2018.
Guidance is now available to support applications and applications can be made here.
They must be submitted by Friday 16th September 2016, 5pm and successful applicants will be informed in October 2016.