UK Government

Department of Health (National): Government progresses plans for Armed Forces mental health

Press Release   •   Nov 22, 2010 11:52 GMT

Government Ministers pledged to further improve mental health services for the Armed Forces through a programme of joint working today.

The Ministry of Defence and Department for Health announced that along with Armed Forces charity Combat Stress, they would continue to work together to move forward recommendations from the Fighting Fit report into military mental health produced by former Royal Navy doctor, Andrew Murrison MP. 

Dr Andrew Murrison was asked by the Prime Minister to undertake an independent study into the mental health of both serving and ex-service personnel to see what more can be done to assess and meet their needs. The subsequent report, Fighting Fit, was welcomed by the MoD and Department of Health. 

Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Andrew Robathan today joined the Minister of State for Health, Simon Burns and former Royal Navy doctor, Andrew Murrison MP on a visit to the Combat Stress headquarters in Surrey to discuss what further improvements can be made to mental health services for veterans. 

Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Andrew Robathan, said: "I am determined to ensure that our Armed Forces receive the best mental health care available, both while serving and after leaving the Service. Along with my colleagues in the Department of Health and Combat Stress, will do whatever I can to improve the services they receive. Already, following the recommendations made in Dr Andrew Murrison's study, we have announced plans to improve mental health services for veterans through the introduction of 30 mental health nurses and a 24 hour counselling and support helpline."

Health Minister Simon Burns said:

"Servicemen and women give so much to our country and the NHS must do whatever it can to reduce the impact that this can have on their mental health.

"Work is already underway on delivering a dedicated 24-hour support line for veterans, and we are working closely with Combat Stress and other service charities to ensure that veterans receive the care that they deserve."

The MoD operates a range of measures to tackle mental health issues among the Armed Forces. In Afghanistan, Community Psychiatric Nurses are on hand to provide any care and treatment needed; they are supported by visiting consultant psychiatrists. In addition, two UK-based teams of psychiatrists and mental health nurses are available to deploy to Afghanistan at short notice, if required. 

There are 15 military Departments of Community Mental Health across the UK, which provide out-patient mental healthcare. These teams are made up of psychiatrists and mental health nurses, with support from clinical psychologists and mental health social workers. A wide range of psychiatric and psychological treatments are available, including medication, psychological therapies, and environmental adjustment. The MoD works with a group of NHS Trusts to provide in-patient care. These arrangements mean that most patients can be treated near their units. 

When back in the UK, Reservists can benefit from the Reserves Mental Health Programme, which offers assessment and treatment for those in need. A similar scheme has also been introduced for MOD civilians who have deployed and might need such follow-up help. 

For veterans, the MoD is working with the NHS and Combat Stress to make sure GPs are telling veterans about the support available and to ensure that the NHS understands the culture of the military. There are community mental health pilots for veterans at six NHS Trusts' across the UK, including the Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust. Centred on the patient and GP, these arrangements aim to make it easier for veterans to seek help and are advertised in a number of ways including through GPs and the local British Legion.

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