New £2.5m specialist perinatal service will be a ‘game changer’ for women with mental health problems

Mum of three Naomi Farrow who has started a charity for mums who sufer from post-natal depression. P

Mum of three Naomi Farrow who has started a charity for mums who sufer from post-natal depression. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A mother who has fought for better help for hundreds of women with mental health problems has said a new £2.5m specialist perinatal service will be a 'game changer'.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation NHS Trust (NSFT) has been given the funds by NHS England to develop the community service over the next three years.

It will support new mothers and pregnant women with serious mental health difficulties - and will be the first service of its kind in the area.

Naomi Farrow, who worked alongside the NSFT during the application process, has long campaigned for more support for women in need.

She said: 'It is very much needed here and has been for a long time. It will be a massive game changer for mothers because now they will have the specialist treatment, rather than being generalised.

'For me this is crucial and I think it's a huge step forward for mums and for Norfolk. It should have been here already - but I think it's brilliant that it now will be.'

The service will cater for women with conditions including severe post-natal depression and will offer pre-conception counselling to those with mental health problems.

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Figures suggest that about 360 women in Norfolk and Waveney have severe perinatal mental health need, with another 5,000 classed as having mild to moderate needs.

Mrs Farrow, of Holt, set up a support group for mums coping with depression after her own experiences with mental ill health.

She was left disappointed with the services on offer and wrote to her MP, Norman Lamb.

While she welcomed the news, she said it was key to ensure money was spent in communities to support women before they need acute care.

'It is great to see money being put into the cure end, it's important that we put a focus on prevention as well,' she said. 'Funds need to be spent in communities so that we can keep mothers where they should be, with their children.'

NSFT wil now begin work to recruit a 14-strong team to deliver the service, including consultant psychiatrists, mental health nurses, a psychologist, occupational therapist, social worker and administrators.

Michael Scott, NSFT chief executive, said they were 'absolutely delighted' to receive the funding.

'This will allow them to bond more successfully with their baby, strengthening the family unit and ensuring their child gets the best possible start in life,' he said.

'Intervening early with this vulnerable group is especially important, as statistics show suicide is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth.'

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