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Military Covenant (Mental Health Services)

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

11. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the military covenant’s provisions relating to the mental health of serving and former service personnel. (267185)

The MOD has a number of programmes to support our people—those in service and veterans. These include, for veterans, six mental health pilot projects and the medical assessment project run at St. Thomas’s hospital by Dr. Ian Palmer. For service personnel in theatre, we have dedicated mental health teams of doctors and nurses who are all trained to spot the signs of mental health difficulties. In the UK, South Staffordshire and Shropshire is leading a consortium of seven NHS mental health trusts to provide in-patient care for service personnel. The Healthcare Commission assessed the MOD’s department of community mental health as part of its review of the Defence Medical Services clinical governance process, which was published earlier this month.

In a recent Royal British Legion survey, it was discovered that of 500 GPs in England and Wales, 85 per cent. knew nothing about the reservists mental health project and 71 per cent. knew nothing about the MOD’s medical assessment programme. What are the Government going to do better to inform GPs, as well as reservists, about these programmes?

Two things. First, I am considering a system whereby when people, including reservists, leave the armed forces, that can be flagged up on their NHS medical records, which will give individuals who have had military service broader visibility to GPs. Secondly, there is an onus on us all to promote the six continuing mental health pilots and the project at St. Thomas’s hospital. For the information of Members, anyone who wants to go to the Jubilee Room this afternoon will find that the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency is holding an open day to explain the services it provides for veterans in the UK.

During last Thursday’s debate, my hon. Friend the Minister indicated that the Department is

“working with service charities and other sectors on the welfare pathway, which will be announced later this year.”—[Official Report, 26 March 2009; Vol. 490, c. 542.]

Will he expand on that statement, particularly in respect of the work being undertaken in different parts of the country?

I initiated the welfare pathway to ensure that we not only support our men and women when they are in service, but look after them in transition, and through life. I am working with other Departments, the Ministry of Defence and service charities; I have a meeting next week, and scoping work is going on. I hope to pull all the work together and announce the final piece of work in July.