Press release -

Department of Health: Improved Care for Veterans and Severely Injured Service Personel

Armed forces personnel with the most serious injuries will have a customised health care plan before they leave the Services that will continue to be tailored to meet their individual needs for the rest of their life, Health Minister Mike O'Brien and Veterans Minister Kevan Jones announced today.

The new arrangements are part of a package of improvements set out as part of the Government's commitment to provide Armed Forces veterans and those preparing to make the transition from service to civilian life with the very highest standards of health care. They include:

· A guarantee that all those seriously injured will receive an early and comprehensive assessment of their long term needs before they leave the Armed Forces;

· High quality care for life for those with continuing healthcare needs based on a regular review of their needs overseen by an NHS case manager;

· Grant funding of £140,000 with Combat Stress (that they are matching) to work directly with mental health trusts to ensure that the services they provide are accessible to and appropriate for military veterans;

· Closer NHS links with a full range of third sector partners and charities with extensive experience of working with veterans, to share advice, knowledge and best practice to improve services for veterans;

· An entitlement for all veterans who have lost a limb whilst serving in the Armed Forces to receive, where clinically appropriate, the same standard of prosthetic limb from the NHS that they received or would receive today from Defence Medical Services as a result of major technological advances.

· Responsible Directors within each Strategic Health Authority, together with Primary Care Trust champions, will be identified to ensure the needs of  the armed forces, their families and Veterans are fully reflected in local plans and service provision; and

· Improved transfer of medical records to the NHS on retirement from the armed forces, including greater GP awareness of veteran status of new patients to ensure veterans receive their entitlement to priority treatment for any injuries or illness attributable to their time serving in the Armed Forces.

In addition, it is expected that the six ongoing mental health pilots within the NHS will continue, with the evaluation and learning from these pilots used to help other Trusts gear their services to better meet the needs of veterans.

Speaking on a visit to service charity Combat Stress in Surrey, Health Minister Mike O'Brien said:

"Those who have sacrificed so much for their country deserve the very best health care.  That is why we are working with the MOD, the NHS and service charities to make these improvements. The package of measures set out today builds on what the NHS already provides to ensure that veterans’ health needs are better met.

"The NHS delivers high quality mental health services and is the best place to treat Veterans, but we want to make sure that the NHS understands their very specific needs. That's why we and Combat Stress are providing professional support for ex-service men and women to help them get the help they need from the NHS and put them in touch with local support groups."

Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said:

“Today, the Government is making a lifelong guarantee to the brave men and women who have served their country. My part of that promise is to ensure that those members of the Armed Forces who have suffered serious injury will have an individually tailored health care plan before they leave the services.

“I have strived to alert all Government departments to the needs of our veterans and I am proud to have played a role in this new and ground-breaking series of announcements. Together, the MoD, Department of Health and Armed Forces charities will build on our existing good work to bring about real change to the lives of our former service men and women.”

David Hill, Chief Executive of Combat Stress said:

“Efficient planning of Veteran services and joined-up working between both statutory and voluntary sectors are crucial – if service providers are to rise to the challenge of properly meeting the mental health needs of Veterans in their communities. Combat Stress has seen a 66% rise in referrals in the last 4 years and there is no sign of this increase in demand abating.

“Combat Stress sees this relationship as an important step forward in reaching a common goal – making sure that those Veterans who need support have access to the best care possible. By combining the expertise gained from Combat Stress’s 90 year history in the field and the recent NHS Veterans Mental Health Pilots, we can deliver help to those who need it as quickly as possible.”

The Department of Health is also working with the military to develop clearer and easier routes into accredited NHS jobs to provide employment opportunities for those leaving the Armed Forces.

Notes to editors

The package of measures to improve health care for veterans is set out in detail in a Written Ministerial Statement to Parliament today, 11th  January 2010.

2.  A veteran is anyone who has served for at least one day in HM Armed Forces.

3.  Defence Medical Services responsibility for an individual’s health care transfers to the NHS as soon as someone leaves the Armed Forces.

4.  These new measures are part of the Government’s ongoing commitment, launched in July 2008 in the first-ever cross-government Service Personnel Command Paper, to our Armed Forces, their families, and our veterans.

5.  The measures fit in with the Government's new Shared Vision for Mental Health launched in December 09, New Horizons. It will tackle depression for people of all ages and walks of life; work to further reduce suicides; improve outreach to help excluded groups access support; and tackle the stigma around mental illness. New Horizons and all associated documents can be found at:

4.      Details of the Third Sector Strategic Partner Programme for 2010 will be published in the coming weeks. The programme aims to ensure that third sector organisations are able to contribute to improved health and well-being and promotes collaboration between organisations operating in the health and social care sector.

5.      For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.


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