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Iraq: Peace Keeping Operations

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements are in place for the medical welfare of reserve forces who have served in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan on their return; and in what ways such arrangements differ to those in place for regular servicemen and women. (136031)

Any mobilised serviceman or woman injured when on operational deployment is treated the same, and will receive exactly the same medical treatment and support, whether they are regular or reserve. If a medical officer in-theatre assesses that a member of the reserve forces requires treatment or rehabilitation back in the UK, they will be treated in exactly the same way as regular personnel. This may include treatment and rehabilitation at a military Regional Rehabilitation Unit or the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, Surrey, or—if the problem is related to their mental health—admission to the Priory Group or treatment at a military Department of Community Mental Health.

When reserve personnel are demobilised, they are given a medical assessment. During this process, if it is identified that they are in need of an operation they may be referred to NHS hospitals housing Ministry of Defence Hospital Units or the Royal College of Defence Medicine at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, where they will be treated within military time frames which can in some cases offer faster access to treatment. Reserve personnel will receive treatment for injuries sustained on operation until they are deemed to have reached a steady state of fitness. They are then demobilised, and taken through a transition from military to NHS care, if they have continuing health care needs.

The patient may express a preference for treatment in a hospital nearer to their home, which may be a non-MDHU hospital, and some reservists opt for this route. In accordance with NHS protocols, if they are referred on to a non-MDHU hospital, then access to treatment is according to clinical priority.

Once demobilised it is a long established tradition that reserve forces’ medical welfare becomes the responsibility of their local NHS primary care trust and the majority of Veterans’ physical and mental health needs are met by these provisions. However, the MOD recognises that it has an expertise to offer in certain specific circumstances, and in November 2006 launched a new initiative—the Reserves Mental Health Programme. This is open to personnel who have been demobilised since January 2003 following overseas operational deployment as a reservist and who have concerns that their mental health has suffered primarily as a result of their operational service leading up to their demobilisation.

They will be invited to attend the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, where members of the Defence Medical Services will carry out an assessment of their mental health. If it is considered that they are eligible for out-patient treatment by the Defence Medical Services, this will be provided at one of the military Departments of Community Mental Health, at the most convenient site to meet the individual’s circumstances whenever possible. More details of the programme are available at:

http://www.army.mod.uk/rtmc/rmhp.htm

Finally, the Government fund courses of care at Combat Stress facilities for both regulars and reservists whose condition is due to service and for whom this is an appropriate course of treatment.