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Armed Forces: Health Services

Volume 492: debated on Friday 8 May 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received on psychometric testing of personnel due to be sent to combat zones to identify their vulnerability to combat stress; what response he has made to such representations; and if he will make a statement. (272852)

From time to time, the Department receives representations about the mental health services provided for members of the armed forces. I am not aware of any recent representations specifically on psychometric testing of personnel prior to deployment. The Department’s evidence-based view is that such selection processes do not work and would be counter-productive.

Recent research is summarised in the King’s Centre for Military Health Research “Ten Year Report” published in 2006 by the University of London and covering a decade's worth of research concerning the health of UK service personnel and veterans. This explains that selecting out individuals who might be at increased risk of developing mental health difficulties prior to recruitment or deployment is a flawed strategy because, whether one uses clinical interviews or questionnaire-based methods, it is impossible to distinguish reliably between those who will go on to experience psychological difficulties and those who will not. An ineffective selection programme would not just be costly and labour intensive but is likely to have adverse consequences both for individuals who would unnecessarily be prevented from deploying when doing so is part of their job, and for the operational efficiency of the armed forces by unnecessarily reducing the numbers of personnel available to carry out operational tasks.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to implement the recommendations in the Review of Defence Medical Services undertaken by the Healthcare Commission at the request of the Surgeon General. (273003)

Yes. The MOD is committed to meeting the Commission’s recommendations, which recognise where we are already demonstrating best practice in delivering healthcare and will help the Defence Medical Services (DMS) to drive improvements. We are exploring with the Department of Health how best to take forward continuing external and independent examination of our medical services. We have already created our own defence medical inspector general, whose remit includes following the Commission’s review with a wider internal review across the whole DMS and other appropriate Defence process owners.