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Department of Health to invest in mental health services

15 February 2016
Mum with baby

The Department of Health has today announced an extra £1 billion will be invested in mental health care by 2021 to provide mental health support to one million more people.

The announcement follows the publications of a report by the Mental Health Taskforce, chaired by Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind. The independent report looked at developing a five year mental health strategy for the NHS.

The report’s recommendations, which will apply to England only, are that by 2020/21, NHS England should support at least 30,000 more new and expectant mothers through maternal health services.

David Cameron recently pledged an expenditure of £290 million by 2020 to achieve this recommendation.

In October last year, Bliss reported that mothers who gave birth to babies needing specialist care in England were not receiving sufficient psychological support. Our report found that at 41 per cent of neonatal units, parents had no access to a trained mental health worker, and at 30 per cent of units, parents had no access to psychological support. This is despite the fact that mothers with babies on a neonatal unit are at a much higher risk of experiencing mental health problems. According to research, up to 40 per cent mothers of premature babies are affected by post-natal depression, compared to the national average of 10-15 per cent.

Bliss recently spoke to mum Heather, who gave birth to her daughter at 24 weeks. She said: “We simply had no one to talk to, no one who understood what we were going through and it was very isolating and upsetting, which in turn made parenting very difficult. My partner had several months off work due to stress and I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. It would have made a huge difference if dedicated counselling was available.”

Bliss Chief Executive Caroline Davey said: “We welcome this announcement as a positive step towards ensuring that every new parent gets access to the psychological support they need, at the time they need it. It is vital that some of this money is allocated to help parents with babies on a neonatal unit, who are at a far higher risk of developing conditions such as postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, Bliss’ recent report showed they are not currently getting the mental health support they need and deserve.”

If you would like to read Bliss’ report in detail, you can see it here: bliss.org.uk/babyreport

Our report looked at neonatal services in England and revealed that services are overstretched and under pressure. We found that a lack of adequate funding mean services are struggling to meet national standards set out by the Department of Health and the NHS.

We’re writing an open letter to NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens to call for a review of funding levels of neonatal care. To add your signature to help give vulnerable babies a better start, please visit bliss.org.uk/sign-with-us

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