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iHV welcomes new HEE Guidance on Specialist Health Visitors in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health

19th April 2016

Until embargo until 00:01 Tuesday 19 April 2016

The Institute of Health Visiting warmly welcomes the new commissioning and workforce development guidance on Specialist Health Visitors in Perinatal and Infant Mental health (PIMH) – What they do and why they matter, published today by Health Education England (HEE).  It concludes that all women and their partners should have access to a specialist health visitor in perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) and recommends at least one for every health visiting service.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)1, 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. New fathers can also experience difficulties. In addition, a recent LSE report2 estimated the long-term cost to society of mental health problems in the perinatal period to be about £8 billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK.

Creating Specialist Health Visitor posts in PIMH within every health visiting service will play a valuable part in reducing the incidence and impact of postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health problems. This will be through earlier diagnosis, better intervention and support – creating savings on child and adult mental health services, and improved public health.

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), said:

“The iHV is delighted to endorse this new guidance which provides a framework for improvements in the services that health visitors can provide to families to promote their mental health.

“Through the health visiting ‘universal’ service, health visitors are well-placed to identify those families requiring additional support, especially where the mother (or indeed father) may be suffering from perinatal mental illness, or where the bond between parent and baby may be compromised. However, health visitors have many other roles and responsibilities taking their time during this important period of every child’s life and they would benefit from specialist support in this challenging arena.”

The framework sets out the important role of specialist health visitors in PIMH, illustrates the value to parents and other health professionals involved in a mother’s care and recommends that every woman should have access to a specialist Health Visitor as part of the multi-disciplinary team.

Sara Rance, Consultant Child Psychotherapist and Parent Infant Psychotherapist and author of the guidance, said:

“Having worked for many years as a trainer and colleague of health visitors who have become ‘Specialists in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health’, I have seen at first hand the difference they can make to vulnerable parents and infants and to raising understanding and expertise in the wider health visiting and early years workforce.

“Commissioning at least one specialist post for a health visitor in perinatal and infant mental health within every health visiting service is a crucial step in building the multi-disciplinary teams and pathways we need to deliver proper perinatal mental healthcare in England.”

Specialist Health Visitors (PIMH) are experts within their local services, with advanced training and experience that equips them for a dedicated role caring for women with perinatal mental health problems, enabling them to provide specialist interventions and continuity of care which is particularly important for vulnerable new parents. Their role is crucial in improving the quality of health visiting services and supporting the mental health care delivered by all health visitors – a core part of the professional role.

Dr Adams continued:

“With a Specialist Heath Visitor in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health within every health visiting service, we will be a step closer to removing the current postcode lottery of care – so that all new mothers receive expert care and all babies are safe, well nurtured and able to thrive. This guidance will be of huge value to commissioners, delivering health improvement for infants, their families and indeed society.”

—-ENDS —-

For more information please contact: Julie Cooper on 07508 344716 or [email protected]

Notes to editors

  1. NICE (2014) Antenatal and postnatal Mental Health: Clinical Management and Service Guidelines,


  1. Executive summary from The costs of perinatal mental health problems

HEE Guidance: Specialist Health Visitors in Perinatal & Infant Mental Health: What they do and why they matter

About the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV)

  • The Institute of Health Visiting is a UK Centre of Excellence supporting the development of universally high-quality health visiting practice. It was launched on 28 November 2012 to promote excellence in health visiting practice to benefit all children, families and communities. 
  • The aim for the iHV is to raise standards in health visiting practice, so improving public health outcomes for all children, families and communities.
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