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Key Findings From Our NHS Waiting Times Survey

  • Analysis of over 1,000 people who sought NHS support for pre and postnatal mental health services shows over a quarter felt their concerns were not taken seriously
  • Four in 10 who were offered treatment say they had to wait too long to receive it
  • 76% say their conditions worsened in that time including intrusive thoughts, being unable to bond with their child and even suicidal thoughts
  • Demand for PANDAS Foundation services now 70% higher than pre-pandemic

Results from our survey concluded that thousands of people with pre and postnatal depression are having to wait too long to access NHS treatment. Over 1,000 people who have sought NHS support for mental health issues caused by pregnancy or becoming a parent completed the survey, which shows that over a quarter (27%) didn’t feel their concerns were taken seriously when first contacting the NHS. Further to this, 43% of the patients who were offered further treatment say they weren’t seen in an acceptable time frame.

Currently the NICE recommendation is that referrals take no longer than 6 weeks, but the results show one in 5 (20%) people who first sought NHS support during 2020 and 2021 are still waiting to receive treatment.

For those who have had to wait, 8 in 10 (76%) say their symptoms got worse, with nearly a quarter (23%) experiencing increased anxiety and 1 in 5 (19%) having intrusive and unwanted thoughts.

One in 10 say their condition rendered them unable to leave the house, while a similar number (9%) even had suicidal thoughts.

One in 14 (7%) say they weren’t able to bond with their child while waiting for treatment.

Hundreds of respondents have shared their experiences. Here is a small sample of comments, from over 1000

  • When I told my GP that I felt like I was nothing more than a care giver and that I had thoughts of harming myself and had intrusive thoughts that my baby would be harmed in an accident I was told “you’re a mum now, that’s how life is” and had to seek private help because the NHS lists were so long.
  • I expressed feelings of distress and rage and crippling anxiety to Health Visitors but was largely met with “it’s usual to feel like this”
  • I felt like I was in a dark hole and couldn’t get out, couldn’t bond with my child all I was doing was keeping him alive. Sounds terrible but I was numb, needed help and never was taken seriously.
  • I couldn’t leave the house, spent all day in tears and felt like I couldn’t cope when my baby became upset. I wasn’t listened to in my telephone consultation with my GP and just given a prescription with no further support or referrals offered
  • I initially contacted my Health Visitor, GP, and midwife at 6 weeks post-partum with concerns and even shared my desire to die, and they all brushed it off as baby blues.
  • I was told by my GP at 2 weeks postpartum that it was too early for me to have PND, it would take four months for PND to present. It took a further 7 months for an actual diagnosis to be given and for me to be offered the professional support and help I knew I needed as soon as my baby was born.
  • I felt the GP kind of brushed off my symptoms as just normal. She even suggested I just go running to help myself feel better. I had to ask for medication because there was no other option for treatment offered.

As a charity, we are worried that a lack of intervention early on means there is a growing risk that the mental health of new parents deteriorates and worsens.

Annie Belasco, Head of PANDAS Foundation says “Currently there is a dangerous lack of understanding and education around perinatal mental illness, and without this knowledge parents’ mental health can deteriorate rapidly, without an awareness of what is going on and why.

“Lack of intervention early on means there is a growing risk that the mental health of new parents deteriorates and worsens.”

The survey for us has been clarification and confirmation that our services are absolutely vital. We are essential in bridging the gap created by pressures on the NHS. We urgently need more financial support to maintain and grow support services, so that we can meet the growing needs of parents and carers and reduce the ever-growing stress on the NHS.

We’d like to thank every single person who completed and shared the survey, and continue to helps and support the charity as a whole, we are very grateful.

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