Health

'Huge gaps' in mental health care for new mothers

Mother and baby Image copyright Corbis
Image caption Too often new mothers receive little or no care for postnatal depression, the NCT says

There are "huge gaps" in support and care for the mental health of new mothers by the NHS in England, a parenting charity has said.

The National Childbirth Trust said one in 10 mothers experienced post-natal depression but too often there was "no care, or very little care".

It said just 3% of clinical commissioning groups had a peri-natal mental health strategy in place.

Its research was based on freedom of information requests to 194 CCGs.

Of those CCGs with no strategy in place, 60% said they had no plans to establish one.

'Months of misery'

National Childbirth Trust (NCT) chief executive Belinda Phipps said: "While we found some areas with excellent care, too often we have found situations where there is no care, or very little care.

"If there are whole areas where GPs, midwives and health visitors have no training or time to dedicate to this vital service then women will not get the help and support they need.

"For many parents this will result in months of misery, damaging both family relations and children's well-being.

"And, in the most extreme circumstances, it will result in tragedy and loss of life."

Ms Phipps said there was an urgent need for properly staffed and resourced services with clear lines of responsibility and clear targets for delivery.

Lack of clarity

The charity said 15% of CCGs did not provide any information in response to its request and instead directed it to local NHS trusts or NHS England.

It said this suggested a lack of clarity over where responsibility lay for commissioning and providing services.

CCGs were set up in 2012 to give GPs and other NHS clinicians influence over local commissioning decisions.

They include all GP groups in their geographical area and are overseen by NHS England.

Service 'too varied'

NHS England's national clinical director for maternity and women's health, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said: "Postnatal depression is a very lonely and distressing experience and it is important that women suffering from it receive the support and treatment they need.

"While across the country there are many good examples of high quality support for postnatal depression, the level of service is still too varied and local commissioners need to ensure that the support they provide for women meets the highest standards."

The NCT also asked 193 NHS trusts if they provided a peri-natal mental health service with trained specialists.

More than half - 54% - said they did not offer any such service and a further 17% did not respond to the request.

The charity said only 13% of trusts had a full team of such specialists in place. A further 14% employed one such specialist, often on a part-time basis.

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