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Health visitors need more time to support postnatal mental health

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Health visitors unable to support mental health Health visitors do not have enough time to assess mental health

Health visitors said they need more time to support women at risk of developing postnatal mental health conditions, after the Institute of Health Visiting’s (iHV) annual survey found an increase in mothers with depression.

The annual State of Health Visiting Survey of 1413 health visitors found that 68% of health visitors reported seeing an increase in postnatal depression over the last two years. One in four respondents to the survey said that they cannot provide every family with a postnatal mental health assessment at six to eight weeks, and 75% said they could not at three to four months.

The survey results make up the Institute's annual report, released to highlight the picture of health visiting over the last year.

‘Commissioners must now make sure that health visitors have the time to provide postnatal mental health assessments at six to eight weeks and again at three to four months if the training is to have the impact it should,’ said Dr Cheryll Adams, director of the iHV. ‘This is the health visitor's opportunity to let the Institute know how things are going in their practice, their needs, their challenges and how the Institute can help them.’

The report showed that the iHV has trained 573 perinatal mental health champions in the last two years. The champions are intended to improve the quality of contacts for perinatal mental health as well as cascading training for other health visitors. ‘This project has now delivered postnatal mental health training to over 10,000 health visitors and others across England which is an amazing achievement,' said Dr Adams.

The survey explored the social factors that may be harmful to child development. It found that 81% of health visitors who responded to the survey have seen an increase in incidences of domestic violence and 69% saw an increase of families living in poverty over the past two years. ‘The survey feedback is vital in highlighting what is needed to support children, families and communities,’ said Dr Adams.

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