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Poor perinatal mental health provision incurs huge expense

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Perinatal mental health issues cost over £8bn a year, a report by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance has revealed.

The report, The costs of perinatal mental health problems, found that perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis cost the state £8.1bn for each one-year cohort of births. It also states that the cost to the public sector (£1.7bn) is five times greater than the cost of providing the services to treat perinatal mental health conditions that are needed throughout the United Kingdom. The additional costs are incurred by a patient's loss of earnings, and the negative impact on someone's ability to work and quality of life.

The report also found that, despite clear guidance from NICE, there were several regional variations in the provision of care for new mothers with mental health issues. It revealed that approximately half of all cases of perinatal depression and anxiety go undetected, and many of those that are detected fail to receive evidence-based forms of treatment. It also stated that, while specialist perinatal mental health services are needed for women with complex or severe conditions, less than 15 per cent of localities provide these at the full level recommended in NICE guidance and more than 40 per cent provide no service at all.

The report is part of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance's 'Everyone's Business' campaign, which aims to ensure that all women in the UK with perinatal mental health problems receive the care they need.

Dr Alain Gregoire, the Maternal Mental Health Alliance's chair, said: '[Perinatal mental health problems] affect up to 20 per cent of women at some point during pregnancy or in the year after childbirth and are a major public health issue impacting on both women and babies. The good news is that women recover when they get the right treatment. It is vital that all women, wherever they live get the specialist help they need.'

Dr Cheryll Adams, director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said: 'Through [health visitors'] delivery of services to every family with pre-school children they are the best placed public health professional group to identify, manage and provide early support for mothers and fathers with mild to moderate perinatal mental health problems and to seek early specialist help for those with more serious conditions.'

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