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HEE1April 20 2016

The specialist health visitors in perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) workforce should have greater recognition, a Health Education England document is proposing.

All women and their partners should have access within their local health visiting service to a PIMH specialist health visitor, with every health visiting service having at least one, HEE has said. It notes that “more than one-in-ten women will experience mental health problems during pregnancy and after the child’s birth, which means that some 70,000 families could be affected by mental health issues.”

HEE has published a document making a number of recommendations about the specialist health visitors (PIMH) role and the challenges currently facing health visitors. It also looks at their interaction with midwives and GPs, and notes that liaison between health visitors, GPs and community midwives is easier to achieve when the services are co-located in GP practices.

Specialist health visors (PIMH) “also improve efficiency of other services by ensuring that referrals for further care are appropriate and well documented,” says the document. “By acting as a point of contact for social care, midwifery, obstetricians, GPs and mental health services, they help to coordinate care for women needing multi-agency care and improve awareness and information sharing amongst professionals. This does not replace, but rather supports, the role of all health visitors in caring for the mental health of the women and families they work with.”

HEE hopes that the document, which includes a sample job description, “will aid discussions about funding priorities and lead to significant improvements in local provision, so that services can more effectively meet the needs of women in the perinatal period and their families.”

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing and Deputy Director of Education and Quality at HEE, commented: “Perinatal mental health problems are now understood to have a significant public health impact. Without early identification and treatment such problems can also affect the mental health and development of infants and children.
“Indeed, recent policy documents - the NHS Five Year Forward View, Future in Mind and most recently the Maternity Review - have all called for improved mental health services, including during pregnancy and the first year of life.

“Health visitors, through their ‘universal’ service, are best placed to identify those families requiring additional support, especially where the mother or father may be suffering from perinatal mental illness, or where the parent-infant bond is compromised. However, health visitors have many other roles to fulfil during this critical period of every child’s life and would benefit from specialist support in this challenging arena. The framework is a very positive development that I hope will be embraced by every employer.”

HEE2

Links:

HEE announcement

HEE ‘Specialist Health Visitors in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health - What they do and why they matter’

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