This site is intended for health professionals only

Too few health visitors to help postnatal depression sufferers

19 January 2009

Share this article

There are too few health visitors to implement the findings of new research saying that the profession could help new mothers suffering from postnatal depression, says union Unite.

Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), commented on recent research that said new mothers developing postnatal depression would be helped if health visitors are trained to spot signs and offer psychological help.

Dr Cheryll Adams, Unite Lead Professional Officer, said that a recent Unite/CPHVA survey revealed that of the 829 health visitors interviewed, a third reported that they were not confident that their NHS trust’s service allowed cases of postnatal depression to picked up.

She said: “Recent cuts in health visitor workforces have led to the closure of many postnatal depression services delivered by health visitors.

“If mothers are found to have postnatal depression, most prefer health visitor counselling interventions over drugs. However, there are too few health visitors available to perform this important service for new mothers.”

Dr Adams added: “This research provides clear evidence for reinstating a properly resourced and trained health visiting workforce to address this debilitating illness. Untreated postnatal depression can have severe implications, not only for the mother but for her whole family.”

Researchers from the University of Sheffield looked at 4,000 women. At the six or eight-week check, 600 women (15%) were found to have signs of postnatal depression. This equates to some 100,000 women a year suffering from postnatal depression across the UK.


Related story: Targeted support cuts depression in new mothers