The service – which will be run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust – is part of a national programme in which a further £23 million is being spent in underserved parts of the country according to NHS England.
CPFT’s specialist community perinatal mental health service will offer psychiatric and psychological assessments and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems during the perinatal period. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.
The teams will be made up of two consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical nurse specialists, social workers, occupational therapists, peer support workers, nursery nurses and administrative staff.
The funding is worth about £3 million over the next three years and the service will begin in the autumn. Patients will be referred to the service via a GP, other health professionals and other teams within CPFT.
Juli Broder, advanced nurse practitioner for perinatal mental health at CPFT, said: “This is a crucial step forward for mothers and mothers-to-be. Good mental health care for mums means better care for their children – and that will have lifelong benefits.
“At the moment, we offer some perinatal care through our mental health adult locality teams, but having a specialist team in place will be vital and we will be able to offer support to hundreds of women each year.
“We have had incredible support from the NHS England regional clinical network, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group as well as women with lived experience in helping us secure this funding and recruitment to the team has already begun.”
Kirsten Scarff, a mother of two from Peterborough, who has helped design the new service, said: "When I had my first child I showed symptons of OCD, low mood and anxiety. At the time I had to talk to 11 different health professionals before meeting a perinatal mental health nurse. Once I did, I received the most amazing support. With this specialist service in place I hope that women like me will have quicker access to the support they need."
One in five women will experience a mental health problem during their pregnancy and in the first year after birth, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most common.
As well as being crucial to new mothers, new-borns and their families, perinatal services, alongside other treatments for common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, can play an important role in ensuring mental health is integrated into overall healthcare at the earliest possible stage of life.
NHS England, which has committed to investing £365 million to develop perinatal mental health services national by 2022, has said as recently as 2014 it was estimated that only three per cent of the country had good access to perinatal mental health care.
Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for NHS England, said: “Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family, which is why we are absolutely committed to driving forward improvements in care and ensuring this important area of mental health continues to get the attention it deserves.
“Women with lived in experience can play a pivotal role when it comes to shaping the services for others and influencing how we plan and deliver care effectively as possible. What we are now starting to see is evidence-based NHS services growing in parts of the country where there used to be limited or no provision at all.”
Cath Mitchell, Chair of the Local Maternity System Steering Group for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding for maternal mental health from NHS England which will provide much needed help for local mums and their families.
“This new service will help women and their families at a time in their lives when mental health be fragile and challenging. It’s truly amazing that we’ll be able to support, care for and help these families when they need it most.
“Additionally this care will mean children will have increased opportunities to grow, develop and thrive, living a healthier life.”