Mums and pregnant women in the North East will benefit from a £2.7million boost to specialist mental health services in the region.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) has been awarded more than £2.7m to expand its care for both new mums and mums-to-be who experience severe mental ill-health, such as severe post-natal depression.

The cash, announced on Saturday by NHS England, will be spent on additional staff for NTW’s specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Team – including nursery nurses, specialist community psychiatric nurses, doctors and psychologists, as well as developing link staff with other maternity services in the region.

The specialist community team currently serves women in Newcastle and North Tyneside, but with additional funding it will now be able to reach women across the whole NTW area, which also covers Northumberland, Gateshead and Sunderland.

With the additional funding and expanded service, it is estimated the team will have supported almost 700 more women by 2019 (full details, including local breakdowns in ‘Notes to Editors’).

NTW Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist Dr Andrew Cairns said: “Welcoming a new life into the world can be one of the happiest times of your life. But for many women in the North East, this can be disrupted by severe depression, anxiety, post-partum psychosis or other mental health issue.

“The £2.7m announced today will help us reach even more women and provide further highly specialist staff to support and care for them at such an important stage of their lives.”

He added: “We’re talking about very severe illnesses that can have a massive impact on both women and their babies as they begin their lives together.

“Severe mental illness in new mums or mums-to-be, such as depression, anxiety or post-partum psychosis, can affect them and the child later down the line. This means it is crucial to provide specialist care and support as soon as possible. “

It is estimated that one in five women experience some form of mental illness – such as depression, anxiety or in some cases psychosis – during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Approximately 5% of women will face a severe form of mental illness during this time.

NTW’S medical director Dr Rajesh Nadkarni added: “If you can make an impact at such an important stage of someone’s life, for both mother and baby, you can have a hugely positive effect on their future lives, and on society as a whole.

“It’s highly encouraging to see a focus on such a vital part of mental health services and this money should benefit thousands of North East women and children for years to come.”

NTW’s specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Team is based at St George’s Hospital, Morpeth. The team offers community psychiatric nursing services for women with mental health problems relating to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

It is currently made up of five nursing staff and one consultant psychologist and supports approximately 300 women a year.

They currently support women from the inpatient mother and baby unit, and those seen by NTW’s consultant in an outpatient clinic at Wansbeck General Hospital. They also support women in North Tyneside and Newcastle should they experience mental health problems (such as depression and anxiety) as a direct result of their pregnancy  – both during pregnancy and up to one year after birth.

The service also helps women experiencing mental health problems that have come about from the death of a baby or a miscarriage.

Referrals can be made through your midwife, health visitor, specialist mental health services or your GP.