I have received many emails from constituents recently regarding postnatal mental health. I share concerns over this issue entirely and believe it is essential that mothers with a mental health problem have access to the treatment and support they require.
Whilst it is common for new mothers to suffer from postnatal mental illness, according to the Half Hidden campaign, only half receive the treatment they need.
I believe that mental health must be given the same priority as physical health. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point, yet tens of thousands receive inadequate or no treatment at all.
The lack of sufficient funding for neonatal services across the board is extremely worrying. Since 2010, mental health funding has been cut, the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,600 and remaining mental health budgets have been raided to plug holes elsewhere in the NHS. Despite commitments made by our Prime Minister last year to address mental health, so far the Government have made little meaningful progress on this issue.
I have previously raised the issue of neonatal care and mental health in parliament, including this written question to the Minister in regards to Baby Care Units:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, with reference to recommendation 11 on page 41 in the report by Bliss, Hanging in the Balance, published in 2015, what progress his Department has made towards ensuring that all parents and staff on neonatal units have access to psychological support in line with national standards.
This is the response I received:
The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health included a specific recommendation for NHS England to improve perinatal services. The aim is that by 2020/21, there will be increased access to specialist perinatal mental health support in all areas in England, in the community or in-patient mother and baby units, allowing at least an additional 30,000 women each year to receive evidence based treatment, closer to home, when they need it. The Department and NHS England have committed a total investment from 2015/16 to 2020/21 of £365 million to support this expanded service. For National Health Service staff, NHS England launched a £5 million programme of health and wellbeing support in 2015, which included measures to help staff deal with stress and mental ill health.