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Policy context

The policy context for this perinatal and infant mental health pathway is the Healthy Child Programme (HCP)4, which was revised in 2009 to take account of recent changes in evidence about the importance of the perinatal period, and which sets the overall standard in terms of the delivery and commissioning of services from pregnancy to age 5. The Health Visitor Implementation Plan5 describes the government’s strategy for expanding health visiting services, to ensure that families have a positive start, through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme.

A number of government reports3 6, have concluded that strategies to promote infant and child welfare should include a commitment to prevention, and a focus on promoting wellbeing that begins during pregnancy and continues throughout the early years. This has also been reflected in the review of child protection in England, which emphasises the importance and effectiveness of prevention and early intervention. A final endorsement is provided by the cross party government strategy for mental health, which employs ‘starting and developing well’ as one of its key objectives.

The need for early prevention and intervention was also highlighted by the Munro Review of child protection services in England, and the cross-party government strategy for mental health – No Health without Mental Health7, which highlights ‘starting and developing well’ as one of its key objectives.

Another significant part of the policy context is the NICE guidance ‘Ante and Postnatal Mental Health’ currently being updated, which will hopefully include a greater focus on the infant.