Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has today announced new plans for maternity care, including a "named midwife" policy and measures to help health professionals to spot the early signs of post natal depression (PND).

This is welcome news, given that the issue was flagged up as a grave cause for concern just last week by a NSPCC survey, showing how an estimated two in five new mothers are in desperate need of post natal help.

Under the plans, health workers will be given enhanced training so they can spot the early signs of PND in new mothers.

Additionally women who have a miscarriage or stillbirth and parents who are forced to cope with the death of a baby will also be offered increased support from the NHS.

Lansley, said: "We have listened to the concerns of women about their experiences of maternity care, which is why we are putting in place a 'named midwife' policy to ensure consistency of care. New mothers will receive one-to-one care from a named midwife during labour and birth as part of government plans to combat postnatal depression.

The move was welcomed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and parenting forums. Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said the pledges were "very good news" for women and midwives.

"These are positive plans from the government targeting areas of maternity care that are under-prioritised and under-resourced," she said.

"The impact of a miscarriage or a stillbirth can be devastating for the woman and her family and postnatal depression can be a crippling and sometimes fatal illness. Early detection and treatment is crucial.

"It is also excellent to see an intention to ensure that long-standing NHS commitments, such as one-to-one care in labour and choice about where and how women give birth, become a reality for all women."

However, according to the RCM 5,000 more midwives would be needed to deliver the care proposed.

Sally Russell, co-founder of Netmums, also welcomed plans to address postnatal depression - a common condition that is often kept hidden.

"Most mums and dads find it difficult to admit they are suffering and yet it can be a blight on their lives," she said. "Having better support from local services could make a big difference and we're delighted that the government has identified this as a priority."

Posted by Penny Hosie