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Veterans (Mental Health)

Volume 575: debated on Monday 3 February 2014

13. What recent discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues on the mental health of armed forces veterans. (902325)

This obviously remains a huge priority for me and other Ministers. One of my first actions after I was appointed was to go to the King’s Centre for military medicine and meet Professor Sir Simon Wessely and his team, which was one of the most enlightening and indeed informative visits that I have made. He discussed with me the state of health of our veterans, and in particular their mental health, which is actually as good as, if not better than, that of those in civilian life. However, when our veterans have mental health difficulties, they must remain a priority for treatment.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. My constituent Anthony Gibbs, who came to see me in my surgery, is a very brave young man who served in Northern Ireland and a number of other places. His service led in subsequent life to severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and he still has very severe mental health problems. The Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), wrote a report—which the Prime Minister told me last year was being fully implemented—on this issue, but it is quite apparent that things are still going wrong. I hope my hon. Friend will agree to a meeting with me and, if he will come, Mr Gibbs, so that she can have further conversations with her colleagues in the Department of Health and we can start to get this right for the brave young men and women of our armed forces.

My hon. Friend has written me a letter, which I have before me. All those proposals have been implemented, but we are conscious that GPs, for example, do not always refer people for the treatment that they need. We have discussed the issue at length with the Department of Health. I am not saying that this cannot be done, but it will be difficult, because we cannot tell GPs to make the referrals. I should be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the matter further.