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Volume 447: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many armed forces personnel returned from Iraq in 2005 diagnosed with (a) mental health and (b) physical conditions which required (i) hospital and (ii) rehabilitation treatment in the UK. (72498)

Our records show that 732 armed forces personnel were aeromedically evacuated from Iraq in 2005. Of these, 666 were diagnosed with physical conditions, and 309 of them were treated at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak, Birmingham, which is the Ministry of Defence's main receiving hospital for aeromedically evacuated personnel. The others were transferred to other NHS hospitals or referred to community-based care for ongoing treatment. We are unable to determine precisely how many of these patients required hospital treatment or were discharged at the airhead for ongoing care in the community as the relevant database does not contain this information. To provide this information, individual patient records would have to be consulted, and this could only be done at disproportionate cost and with the patient's permission.

Determining the number of personnel who returned from Iraq with a mental health condition is not straightforward. Sixty six personnel were aeromedically evacuated in 2005 specifically because they were diagnosed as suffering from a mental health condition, but the number who were diagnosed, after their return, with psychological problems as a result of their service in Iraq is greater than this. The Defence Analytical Services Agency (DASA) was notified of 727 personnel who were referred to the MOD's Departments of Community Mental Health in 2005 with possible mental health problems and subsequently identified as having a psychiatric disorder related to their service in Iraq at any date from 2003. It can also be difficult to determine the underlying causes of some mental health problems, some of which could be caused by a combination of other life events that occurred before or after service in Iraq.