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Institue of Health Visiting Department of Health
Royal College of General Practitioners

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Perinatal Mental Health for Health Visitors

In the Health Visitor Implementation Plan 2011-15 - A Call to Action, published by Ministers on 8 February 2011, the government committed to developing a larger, re-energised health visiting service.

The Health Visitor Implementation Plan contains core aims to "improve opportunities to use the full range of health visitor skills and re-emphasise health visitors as key public health professionals" and to "ensure a strong focus on responding to differential needs and improving outcomes, and that systems promote effective join-up between services in ways that best meet local needs". Training Health Visitors to identify and treat postnatal depression, including making referrals to specialist counselling, is a key driver of these aims.    

Training Health Visitors to identify and treat postnatal depression was the focus of a major announcement by the Secretary of State (May 2012), with the Department of Health press release stating "these key healthcare professionals will be able to access new evidence and training so they can identify and support women with postnatal depression".

Postpartum depression is currently poorly identified and therefore often untreated, and therefore is a significant area for public health improvement. Training of Health Visitors is an effective intervention to bring about this improvement.

The 3 e-learning modules developed by the Institute of Health Visiting, funded by the Department of Health look at;

Module One – Perinatal depression and other maternal mental health disorders

Module Two – How to recognise perinatal anxiety and depression

Module Three – Interventions for perinatal anxiety, depression and related disorders

The 3 modules include videos, case studies, links to aid learning and questions to test your knowledge of the subjects and reflect on your learning.


Perinatal Mental Health

The Department of Health have mandated Health Education England (HEE) to develop an e-learning resource in the field of Perinatal Mental Health. HEE has developed a set of five 20 to 30 minute e-learning sessions. The sessions assume no prior knowledge of perinatal psychiatry and are designed to be accessed by any health care professional that has contact with a mother or baby from the period prior to conception until the child is 1 year of age.

All content is referenced and the learner is signposted to additional detailed learning resources for more advanced learning. The content and structure of the sessions were formally agreed during a stakeholder consultation exercise in May 2015. This included input from several Royal medical colleges including the RCN, RCGP, RCOG and RCPsych amongst others.

The sessions commence with 2 introductory sessions, which provide a broad overview of the topic and essential learning points for all health professionals. The 3 subsequent sessions focus on different stages in a mother's journey - the pregnancy, birth and the first year of a child's life. The subsequent sessions contain more detailed advice, which may be of more interest to particular professional groups, for example, obstetricians may choose to complete session 4 on labour and the immediate post-partum.


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