How can mental health services for the crucial period before and after birth be improved? Amy Davies considers.
This week NCB and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) are bringing together professionals from across the country to discuss how best to support women who are affected by mental health problems during pregnancy and in the first year after birth.
More precisely, we will be considering the mental health services that support mothers and their children in this period. These services, known as perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) services, provide a lifeline for mothers with mental health issues.
Up to 20% of women will be affected by a mental illness at some point during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby, which means that each year in the UK more than 70,000 families will experience the impact of these illnesses.
The cost to the NHS of the current system is £1.2bn for each annual cohort of mothers and their babies. The wider costs to society that come about because of poor attachment between parents and their children, abuse and neglect, and the adverse impact on long term child development, are even higher, costing over £8bn every year.
Providing easy access to quality services is both a moral responsibility and an economic imperative.
PIMH is a national priority for Government and health service partners. And some Strategic Clinical Network (SCN) areas have put in place approaches which are providing high quality services.
However, there remains significant variation across the country in terms of the access and availability of appropriate services. Some SCN areas have no, or at best very little and localised, provision.
One way of improving services is through more joined-up working. Strategic Clinical Networks working in the areas of maternity, children and young people, and those working in mental health currently do not have any formal mechanisms for working together.
This is one area that will be addressed at our roundtable, which brings professionals together to:
- Discuss the importance of quality PIMH services and the role of health system partners in delivering this agenda.
- Share ideas, potential solutions, and practice and service examples likely to help take forward key messages and address the challenges.
- Explore the different roles that the voluntary and community sector can play in supporting PIMH and wellbeing.
NCB and MHF will be producing a report from the information and views captured at this event to inform national leaders and those working within Strategic Clinical Networks about potential improvements in the ways we support mental health and wellbeing.
We hope this will contribute to better mental health for mothers and their children, and help already stretched budgets have greater impact.