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Mental Health

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 14 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department makes of the mental welfare needs of personnel on discharge from the armed forces; and what steps are taken to follow up those identified as vulnerable. (101069)

The number of medical discharges from the UK armed forces due to psychological illness is low. Of the over 200,000 regular service personnel less than 0.1 per cent. are discharged annually for mental health reasons, whatever the cause. Of these, only 20-25 meet the criteria to be diagnosed with PTSD.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) employs specialist mental health social workers (MHSW), who assist personnel who are medically discharged from the service on the basis of a mental illness. The aim of this service is to liaise with the relevant external agencies (Government and non-governmental), and (along with resettlement agencies) provide the patient with a seamless transfer into civilian life. The MOD’s MHSW routinely liaise with health and social services; housing agencies; the Department of Work and Pensions; Combat Stress; Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA); The Royal British Legion; the Service Benevolent Funds; Regimental Associations; and other relevant charitable organisations.

For veterans, healthcare is primarily the responsibility of the NHS. The Veterans Agency Welfare Service also provides practical assistance to veterans in need of support, focussed on those with mental or physical illness or injury suffered as a result of military service for which a compensatory pension is in payment. Following recommendations on mental health services for veterans in 2005 by the independent Health and Social Care Advisory Service, officials from the MOD, the UK Health departments and Combat Stress have been working together to develop and implement a new community-based model for mental health services for veterans. It is hoped that, beginning in the spring of 2007, the model will be piloted at sites across the UK. The pilots are likely to last two years and, if successful, will be rolled out nationally.