Skip to main content

“Fighting Fit” Report

Volume 518: debated on Monday 8 November 2010

1. What steps he is taking to implement the recommendations of the “Fighting Fit” report on the provision of mental health services for service personnel and veterans. (22161)

The Ministry of Defence takes the issue of mental health very seriously and warmly welcomes the findings of the “Fighting Fit” report from my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison). We strongly endorse its key themes and recommendations. I wish to thank my hon. Friend on behalf of the House and the Government for his timely and well-considered report. We are working closely with the Department of Health, the NHS and voluntary and community sector organisations to implement these recommendations.

As Member of Parliament for a town that has very much led the way in support for veterans and service personnel, and as chair of the all-party group on veterans, I, too, warmly welcome the report by the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire and the Government’s endorsement of it. One of its recommendations is for the setting up of a veterans’ information service, which is a positive and constructive proposal, but does the Secretary of State share my concern that membership of it will cost £70 a year? Is there not a danger that that might deter some of the most vulnerable service personnel—for example, those struggling to find work or those on low incomes—from signing up?

The issue of access is important. I hear the point that the hon. Gentleman makes and I shall ensure that securing access for all who may be eligible, including the most vulnerable, is at the forefront of our discussions about the implementation of this report.

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for his welcome for my report and for the help that he has given in its preparation. He shares my concern for people with mild traumatic brain injury and knows that a British combat soldier is likely to face exposure to between six and nine improvised explosive device explosions in the course of his career, with the consequent risk of mild traumatic brain injury. Does he agree that more needs to be done to determine the prevalence of mild traumatic brain injury in the British military and to prevent and mitigate its effects?

Indeed. There is a great deal of interest in this particular element of scientific research on both sides of the Atlantic. I recently visited the veterans agency in the United States to ascertain what the updated information was. We will certainly want to consider all the evidence as it comes forward. It is an emerging science and we will get different types of information as we go through, but the art will be to try to ensure that we best titrate the treatments available to the information given to us scientifically at any one time so that we operate on the basis of evidence, not supposition.