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The NHS will give more support to women who have postnatal depression or who have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a baby, health secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged.
An extra 4,200 health visitors, being recruited by the government, will be given enhanced training to spot the early signs of postnatal depression.
Midwives and health visitors will be supported to work together to provide expert joined up extra care with a focus on emotional wellbeing. The government is investing £400 million into psychological and talking therapies so that the women who need extra help will be able to receive counselling.
As part of the Prime Minister’s friends and family test announced earlier this year, for the first time, the NHS will be measured against how well it cares for parents who have miscarried, suffered a stillbirth or cot death. Patients will rate their care, so the NHS can make improvements.
The government has pledged to improve maternity care in a number of ways, including women having one named midwife to oversee their care during pregnancy and after giving birth. Parents will also be able to make an informed choice about how and where to give birth.
These pledges will be made possible by the wave of investment for health visitors, midwifery students and psychological therapies and reform of NHS services over the next few years.
Andrew Lansley said: “No woman should have to cope with postnatal depression without help and support. The changes we are putting in place today will mean that the NHS is providing even more support to women who have this serious condition.
“We have listened to the concerns of women about their experiences of maternity care, which is why we are putting in place a ‘named midwife’ policy to ensure consistency of care. Not least, we will focus on the quality of care given to mothers–to-be and measure women’s experience of their maternity care for the first time.”
The Government will work in partnership with key stakeholders including the Royal College of Midwives, the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors’ Association, and organisations including 4Children, Mumsnet and Netmums to support implementation of the new, joined up service.
Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet said: “Sadly there are many experiences shared on Mumsnet of women not getting the best care when they need it, whether post-natally in hospital, after a miscarriage or still birth, or when battling post-natal depression. Today’s announcement of renewed focus from the government is a positive step but a sustained effort is needed to ensure Mums benefit from these changes locally.
“Our campaign for Better Miscarriage Care, launched in 2011, called on the government and local NHS trusts to implement a 5-point code of care for families suffering from miscarriage. The announcement that services provided during miscarriage are to be monitored is a real advance towards identifying best and worst practice and therefore towards improving the care received.”
Sally Russell, co-founder of Netmums said: “We know that postnatal depression is extremely common and yet it is an illness that is very hidden. Most mums and dads find it difficult to admit they are suffering and yet it can be a blight on their lives. Some mums are devastated to feel that they don’t love their child, or find themselves isolated with few friends, falling out with their partner, or unable to go to work. Having better support from local services could make a big difference, and we’re delighted that the Government has identified this as a priority.”
Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children said: “4Children welcomes this new support for mothers suffering with postnatal depression.
“Our 2011 report ‘Suffering in Silence’ highlighted the stories of tens of thousands of mothers with depression who felt desperate, overlooked and fearful with terrible and long lasting consequences for them, their children and families. When help was offered it often came in the form of antidepressants despite the fact that counselling was the primary choice of many.
“The policies announced today respond to these concerns making post natal depression a priority for health professionals and ensuring that counselling and talking therapies are available to support.
“This is a good example of Government listening to the needs of families and many families are set to benefit as a result.” Family Action, chief executive Helen Dent said: "It is excellent to see that the Government is listening to our campaign to raise the profile of post natal depression and the dangers for children's futures if mothers are not supported.
“Our Against All Odds: Mind the Gap campaign is calling for better welfare support and more services for mothers at risk of post natal depression before and after the birth of their baby. What we say is that the named midwife needs to assess the risk of PND before the birth and actively support and prepare the mother.
“We know from our perinatal pilot study that this will require a significant investment of time and that this carries through the first year of life. We look forward to seeing how our innovative perinatal service can complement this new scheme."
Any woman suffering from postnatal depression or after a stillbirth or miscarriage should contact their midwife, health visitor or GP.