Health visitors play an important role supporting parents and babies across the country, and the Government is keen to empower them to shape and manage their own health and care and make meaningful choices – particularly in maternity services.
To help achieve this, the Government has increased the number of midwives by over 1,800. Furthermore, by the end of the Health Visitor Programme in April 2015, it had delivered almost 4,000 more health visitors compared to May 2010, an increase of around 50 per cent, with 1,000 HV students in training. Health Education England is ensuring sustainable development of the HV workforce and there are presently over 800 HV student training places commissioned, which will offer more families the support they need in early years.
Protecting perinatal mental health is also a key priority, and is integral to both the Better Births strategy – launched in 2016 – and the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. The HV programme funded the Institute of Health Visitors to train almost 600 perinatal mental health visitor champions to enable health visitors to identify and manage perinatal depression and other maternal mental health conditions. And I pleased to see that the Government will implement the continuity of carers, so new mothers will receive care from the same midwives throughout their pregnancy and birth, and into the postnatal period, to better guard perinatal mental health. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends a six week postnatal check to assess how a woman has experienced her transition to motherhood, which includes checks on her mental health.
In addition, the Government has invested £356 million in improving perinatal mental health in England over five years, providing support and care for at least 30,000 women by 2021; as well as £2.24 million in new safety equipment. A further £1 million has also been committed to improving training for staff to help deliver healthy babies more safely.