Laura Donnelly, Health Editor at the Telegraph reports on how new mothers will be offered counselling by Skype under NHS plans to tackle post-natal depression.
“An estimated 140,000 mothers each year – one in five – suffer depression, anxiety and other mental health problems during pregnancy or in the months after their baby is born. But thousands do not get support, with suicide the leading cause of death in expectant and new mothers.”
There are clearly lives being lost because of the failure to innovate in the delivery of healthcare services (suicide is now the leading cause of direct maternal deaths within a year after the end of pregnancy) but it’s even intolerable to think of the resources being wasted by the NHS through the continued support of the office-visit-only care model and GPs who have implemented a “One Problem Per Consultation” policy despite the evidence showing it’s no more expensive to help Patients share their own concerns using the tools of our time. How many of these 140,000 mothers aren’t sharing information about their mental help with a Doctor because when they get an appointment with a Doctor they prioritise the needs of their child or a physical health concern of their own?
How many of these 140,000 mothers aren’t accessing a Doctor because it’s not convenient? How many of these 140,000 mothers aren’t seeking time with a GP because they think/know they’ll go through the rigmarole of sorting the child care etc and just end up trying to explain their uncertain feelings in a rushed meeting with a stranger?
“Last year a report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists found that 81 per cent of women said they had experienced at least one episode of mental health problems during or after pregnancy. But just 19 per cent were referred for any form of help, with just 7 per cent of women sent to a specialist… …And a national audit of maternity care in 2016 found that 43 per cent of areas provide no specialised mental health service.”
I wonder how long it’s going to take until we accept that it is normal for women to experience a mental problem during or after pregnancy? I wonder how long it will take the NHS to realise that these mothers can use mobile phones and that this can help tackle the geographic access problems (like a major trauma centre has been doing with Facetime since 2012).
“The schemes, offered to at least 3,000 pregnant women and those who have recently given birth, are part of a £365m national plan to offer support to 30,000 women by 2021. Under the projects, NHS bodies will be expected to open “community hubs” for new mothers, offering them advice, referrals to specialists, links in to other care agencies and groups for new parents”
It’s so bizarre that while the NHS is privatising core services and talking up using Robots to care for Patients it’s incredibly slow to realise opportunities to co-develop services eg. instead of opening new places why aren’t these ‘community hubs’ taking advantage of the existing community hubs that exist across the country already (eg. in GP Clinics, adult learning centres, schools/nurseries, etc)?
“Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for NHS England, said: “With so many new mums having the joy of motherhood interrupted by mental ill health, improving care, investment and focus on this issue, is crucial. “Falling pregnant and becoming a mum is a hugely emotional experience, so having expert support available, including working with people’s partners as well as their wider family and social networks, to help manage the upheaval, means that women who are experiencing mental health issues don’t have to suffer and struggle alone. “The new funding follows a £40m investment since 2016, aiming to bring help to more than 6,000 new mothers receiving access to specialist mental health care by April 2018.”
In the absence of services from NHS England I wonder if there is another huge industry of online referral agents masquerading as ‘free helplines’ like the ones that have sprung up to help addicts that legislation could stamp out?
“Last week the National Childbirth Trust called for improvements in post-natal care, after a national survey by the Care Quality Commission found 72 per cent of new mothers did not see the same midwife after leaving hospital. The survey found 23 per cent said the midwife did not appear to be aware of their medical history, or that of their baby. Less than six in ten mothers surveyed said they were “definitely” given enough information about emotional changes they might experience after birth, with a small drop in the numbers given a telephone number for a midwife or midwifery team they could contact”
“Mums net founder Justine Roberts said: “The perinatal period can be stressful and demanding, and women who are affected deserve prompt and compassionate professional care. “When we asked Mumsnet users who had recently given birth about their experience of postnatal care, they told us that mental health services needed more resources and a greater focus – so it’s great to see these funds being made available for this vital aspect of women’s wellbeing.”
It surprises me that Mumsnet founder would be so positive about resources being committed to fund NHS bodies “to open community hubs”. Can you imagine the resource Mumsnet Limited could create with just a tiny fraction of the £365m national plan’s budget?