• NHS England announces £5m perinatal community services development fund
  • STPs, commissioners and providers can bid for money to expand services for women with mental health problems during or after pregnancy
  • Fund is part of £365m plan to expand perinatal support to an extra 30,000 women a year by 2020-21

Commissioners and providers must show how they can reach more new and expecting mothers with serious mental health problems if they are to get a slice of a new £5m investment fund.

The perinatal community services development fund, launched on Friday, allows sustainability and transformation plans, commissioners and providers to put forward bids to develop specialist perinatal community support services for women who develop a mental illness during or following pregnancy.

It forms part of NHS England’s £365m plan to offer evidence based perinatal support to 30,000 more women each year by 2020-21.

The bids, which should be based on three years’ investment, are expected to:

  • show how they will widen the reach of services;
  • set out how they will improve resources for a small team to help more women;
  • explain how they will train new staff for specialist roles; and
  • provide evidence of how they will reach more women.

National mental health director Claire Murdoch told HSJ the areas that can show how they will reach more women are the most likely to be successful in the first wave of funding.

She said: “The main thing that we hope from the bid is they can persuade us that they will be reaching out to more women through their innovations and service development.

“We are serious that we want 30,000 more women [a year] to receive these evidence based interventions by 2021.

“Above all, what’s important is that every one of these 30,000 women matters so every one of these first wave projects must show us how they will reach them.

“I would be surprised if we have any shortfall of teams, CCGs and trusts who are not raring to go with this. I would be quite disappointed if we didn’t see some quite high calibre bids.”

The £5m pot is the first of three payments pledged to the scheme in last month’s implementation plan, with £15m due in 2017-18 and £40m the year after.

NHS England also promised an additional £33.5m over 2019-20 and 2020-21, which will be allocated to clinical commissioning groups.

The bids are intended to bolster existing services or set up new ones, with NHS England saying fewer than 15 per cent of CCG areas currently provide services to levels recommended in national guidelines, and more than 40 per cent provide no service at all.

As many as one in five women experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or during the postnatal period, and the estimated cost to society is £8.1m a year or almost £10,000 per birth.

Ms Murdoch said that although the first wave of funding will be allocated to the bids most likely to work, NHS England will monitor areas were services are currently not available for the second round of funding.

She added: “We are going to be wanting to support what’s most likely to work and reach more women. All of [the bids] need to do that, but clearly as we roll out this programme we will be paying really close attention to the areas that have nothing.

“It would be fantastic if in this first wave some of the areas starting from a low position are successful.

“The key thing is to build the capability and capacity to get the national coverage to 30,000 women by 2020-21. We are serious about national coverage.”

Bids must be submitted by September and successful applicants will be informed in October.

New £5m pot for perinatal mental health services