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Training for health visitors to identify postnatal depression

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The 4,200 new health visitors being recruited as part of the Health Visitor Implementation Plan will receive enhanced training to spot the early signs of postnatal depression.

They, and existing health visitors, will be supported to work with midwives to provide 'expert joined up care for new parents', with a focus on emotional wellbeing, ministers have pledged.

Under plans announced by health minister Andrew Lansley, the NHS will, for the first time, be measured against how well it looks after parents who have miscarried or suffered a stillbirth or cot death. Patients will be asked to rate their care to enable the NHS to improve it.

Mothers will also receive one-to-one care from a named midwife during labour and birth as part of an overarching plan to combat postnatal depression, a pledge welcomed by the Royal College of Midwifes. However, the college estimates that at least 5,000 more midwives would be needed to deliver this.

Independent health visiting adviser Dr Cheryll Adams (pictured) said training to pick up and manage postnatal depression was something that had been 'dropped' by many health visitors in recent years as health visitor numbers fell.

'What is very important is the central government has acknowledged that health visitors need to have the training to be able to respond to perinatal depression in their clients. This will help to prioritise and drive local delivery of work in this area although it is already happening in many areas.'

The DH is in the process of producing a pathway for health visitors to use when supporting mothers with postnatal depression, a move Dr Adams perceives as the government showing a 'real commitment' to addressing the condition.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that around 10 - 15 per cent of new mothers develop postnatal depression.

In 2010, a study of 2,000 women following childbirth, conducted by the universities of Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, found that women given psychological support by specially-trained health visitors were 30 per cent less likely to develop postnatal depression than women receiving usual care.

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