It is vitally important that women have access to the right care during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year. I have helped ensure that Ministers are aware of the National Childbirth Trust's 'Hidden Half' campaign on this important issue.
Improving perinatal mental health services during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year should be prioritised. I am told that the Department for Health is investing £365 million over five years in perinatal mental health services. NHS England is leading a transformation programme to ensure that, by 2020-21, at least 30,000 more women each year are able to access evidence-based specialist mental health care during the perinatal period. Where possible, the transformation programme aims to improve prevention of perinatal mental illness, including through earlier diagnosis and intervention, support for recovery and reducing avoidable harm.
Investment by NHS England in multidisciplinary perinatal mental health clinical networks, which include GPs, will also help drive change. I hope that by working together through these networks, health practitioners can ensure women at risk of perinatal mental health problems are identified at an earlier stage and can receive better, more coordinated care.
Better access to mental health services is a big priority for the NHS which I am glad about as a firm supporter of the commitment to parity of esteem between mental and physical health.