NHS failing to provide care to new mothers with postnatal depression

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A parenting charity has stated that there are ‘huge gaps’ in care and support of the mental health of new mothers by NHS England.

The National Childbirth Trust said that one in 10 mothers suffer with post-natal depression, however there is often no care or very little care. It stated that only 3% of the clinical commissioning groups had an implemented peri-natal mental health strategy.

The information they received was based on freedom of information requests from 194 CCGs. Of the CCGs which had no strategy implemented, 60% stated that there were no future plants to establish a strategy.

The Chief Executive of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), Belinda Phipps, said there are areas where GPs, health visitors and midwives have had no training or do not have the time to dedicate to this service. This results in new mothers not having access to the support and aid they require. This leads to months of misery for parents, which could result in damaged family relationships. In the most extreme cases, it could result in the loss of life.

The charity stated that 15% of CCGs did not provide information in response to the request and they were directed to the local NHS trust or NHS England. NCT states that this indicates a lack of clarity over who carried the burden of responsibility for this service.

CCGs were initiated during 2012 to give GPs and other clinicians at the NHS influence over the local commissioning decision. It includes all GP groups within a specific geographical area and is managed by NHS England.

The National Clinical Director for maternity and women’s health at NHS England, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said that postnatal depression is a distressing and lonely experience and it is vital that those who suffer from it be offered the treatment and support they require.

She stated that there are good examples of high quality support for postnatal depression across the UK, but the service level is still too erratic and it is up to local commissioners to ensure that women obtain the highest levels of care in this situation.

The NCT also questioned 193 NHS trusts as to whether they provide a peri-natal mental health service with specialists who have received adequate training. Around 54% stated that this service was not offered at all and 17% were unresponsive to the request.

NCT found that only 13% of the trusts had a specialist team available. Another 14% employed a single specialist who often worked part-time hours only.

Image Credit: mark sebastian

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