THE failure to address mental health problems during pregnancy and afterwards is costing the country billions of pounds in ongoing care and loss of earnings, a report has warned.
The long-term cost has been calculated at more than £8bn for each year, compared with the estimated £337 million that the NHS would need to spend to bring mental health care up to the level recommended in national guidance.
Almost three quarters of the long-term cost relates to adverse impacts on the child, according to research.
The report, by the London School of Economics and Centre for Mental Health, says that about half of the cases of depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy go undetected.
It found that services were “patchy” and in 40 per cent of the country there are no specialist services at all.
Researchers concluded that the costs of mental health problems among women in pregnancy are far greater than previously thought.
The report is part of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s Everyone’s Business campaign which calls on national Government and local health commissioners to ensure all women in the UK who experience mental health problems receive the care they need.
Dr Alain Gregoire, chairman of the Mental Health Alliance, said that in some areas of the UK women receive “world-class care”.
However, in many areas mental health problems go undiagnosed and untreated “leading to avoidable suffering for women and their families.”
The report has been welcomed by Chris Bingley, whose wife Joe, a Huddersfield nurse, stepped in front of a train while suffering postnatal depression.
Mr Bingley, of the Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation, said “action is required, not words”.
“MPs must take responsibility for delivering on their forgotten promises.
“MPs and Parliament need to hold to account those responsible for delivering the necessary changes and improvements to bring services across the UK up to care standards.