OLDHAM'S parent-infant support service saw a surge in demand over the pandemic, the NHS Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has revealed.

The number of professional consultations and the amount of specialist support almost doubled from April 2019 to the end of January 2021, according to NHS Digital data.

Meanwhile open referrals now remain static after increasing between 2019-2020, with the number of new or expectant mothers in contact with Oldham’s mental health services in January similar to pre-pandemic levels.

According to the NHS, perinatal mental illness affects up to one in five new and expectant mothers and covers a range of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Across England, there were 19,600 open referrals at the end of January – up from 17,600 a year earlier and more than at the end of any month in 2020.

A spokesperson for Oldham CCG said: “As restrictions continue to ease according to the roadmap set out by the government, we anticipate that demand on the services will continue to grow. The CCG will continue to work with providers to improve and strengthen infant mental health services and respond to the challenges created by the pandemic.”

The spokesperson added that investment in a specialist community Parent-Infant Mental Health Service had continued and a number of additional specialist roles within the service have also been provided by Pennine Foundation Healthcare Trust, the lead provider in Oldham.

The Parent-Infant Mental Health Service works with families from conception and for the first two years of a baby’s life.

Additional NHS funding has also been provided to two voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector organisations during the pandemic. HomeStart, which will be developing a peer support offer within Oldham, and Spoons who will provide additional resources for families, both in neonatal units and within the community.

The NHS recently announced it was planning 26 new “hubs” across the country to bring maternity services and psychological therapy under one roof.

An NHS spokesman said: “We have already addressed what was a postcode lottery, by ensuring everywhere in the country has a specialist perinatal mental health service and as part of our Long Term Plan will continue to expand so that at least 66,000 women will be able to access specialist care every year by 2023-24.”

Minister for mental health and maternity safety, Nadine Dorries, said The Government has given more than £10 million in funding to mental health charities to support those affected with specialist perinatal mental health services.