Alison Morton, Executive Director iHV, joined Jonny Dymond on BBC Radio 4’s World at One today to discuss the surge in new mothers and pregnant women seeking help for mental health problems in the lockdown.

The piece on perinatal mental health and health visiting begins with a mum, Amy, sharing her PMH concerns as a new mother and how it impacted her life during the pandemic – this starts at 32:18 into the programme. Alison joins at 35:53 to talk about the health visiting service and the role that health visitors play in providing support to new mothers. Jonny asked if the figures on perinatal mental illness that Radio 4 World at One have become aware of reflect what health visitors are seeing. Alison shared that before the pandemic 20-25% of women and some men had perinatal mental health needs and that the pandemic has made the situation much worse, with rates reportedly doubling. Alison speaks about the vital role that health visitors play supporting families and the difference that getting support early can make.

Alison also shares the challenges that the health visiting service in England faces. In particular, she shares how the needs of women and babies have been largely overlooked in the pandemic response and the impact that this has had on families. With widespread recognition that many women do not find it easy to speak out about how they are feeling, and against a backdrop of 31% cuts to the health visiting workforce since 2015, Alison highlights how these cuts reduce the amount of time that HVs can spend with families. She commented that health visitors come into  the profession wanting to support babies and families – to give babies the best start in life! When challenged about whether families have been let down, Alison agrees that the sector has been under enormous pressure, but defended the profession by saying, “I can tell you categorically that  health visitors did the very best job they could under immensely challenging circumstances!”

  • Recording available for 29 days only from 30 July
  • PMH piece starts at 32:18
  • Alison Morton starts at 35:53
  • Piece ends 39:19


Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, joined BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour today to discuss extending maternity leave for those who are new parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, parents of a six-month old baby launched a petition asking the government to extend maternity leave by an extra three months. They believe that the lockdown has meant parents have missed out on the usual things you’d do on maternity, putting them at a disadvantage. This lead to a House of Commons Petitions Committee discussion where Dr Adams contributed some evidence and raised the profile of the work of health visitors during COVID-19 (see our news story on this). The the signatures for the petition are still coming in – it’s not know yet whether it’ll be debated in the House of Commons but there id due to be another Q&A session on Thursday this week.

Dr Adams says:

“There are challenges for new parents under lockdown due to COVID. There’s been so much attention on hospitals and needing to treat people, that the needs of families have perhaps been forgotten – this has been a big concern of the Institute.”

And in response to concerns about the reported increase in perinatal depression, Dr Adams commented:

“My advice is that GPs are open, health visiting services are open, midwives are there, so if anyone is feeling anxious, please, please pick up the phone and call.”

The news item on extending maternity leave starts at the beginning of today’s Woman’s Hour programme and runs for about 10 minutes. You can listen to Dr Adams between 5.39 and 10.03 on the BBC Radio 4 link below: