New mums who experience mental ill health are to be given access to consultations through Skype as part of further new investment in perinatal mental healthcare.

NHS England has already committed to investing £365m to improving mental health services for new mothers. But on Monday (5 February), the national body announced a further £23m of funding, with a particular focus on developing community services.

The overall aim is to increase access to perinatal mental healthcare. Plans include four new mother and baby units and the recruitment of over 200 specialist staff, including 21 consultant psychiatrists and more than 100 nurses and therapists.

Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for NHS England, said: “With so many new mums having the joy of motherhood interrupted by mental ill health, improving care, investment and focus on this issue, is crucial.

“Falling pregnant and becoming a mum is a hugely emotional experience, so having expert support available, including working with people’s partners as well as their wider family and social networks, to help manage the upheaval, means that women who are experiencing mental health issues don’t have to suffer and struggle alone.

“Improving community access to mental health care is the cornerstone of NHS plans to improve services, and the investment in perinatal mental health will mean women and their families get targeted, specialised support at one of the most important periods of life.”

Mental ill health affects up to 20 per cent of women during the perinatal period – defined as pregnancy the first year after giving birth. The consequences can be serious. A 2015 study of maternal deaths showed almost a quarter of those which happen between six weeks and a year after birth are related to mental health problems, and one in seven women who died in this period took their own lives.

The issue of perinatal mental health has become increasingly prominent in recent years, with high-profile figures including the Duchess of Cambridge speaking out about its impact.

Mental wellbeing is a topic in which the Duchess has a keen interest – back in October, along with the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, she announced a £2m investment to establish a new start-up to support innovative mental health digital tools.

The money has come from their charitable trust, The Royal Foundation, and is the largest single grant ever given by the trust since it began operating in 2011.