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Veterans’ Health

Volume 576: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2014

We are rightly proud of the courage and dedication of our armed forces and it is our duty to ensure that veterans receive the best possible care. We continue to improve the health care of our veterans. The Government have invested £22 million in providing enhanced mental health and prosthetic services over the past few years.

Alex Bentley, who chairs the Royal British Legion in Skipton and is the most incredible, passionate campaigner for our armed forces, has serious concerns about how the armed forces covenant is being applied by hospitals and local councils. Is there anything the Minister can do to champion the cause of this excellent Government scheme at local level?

Aside from the cash investment of £22 million directly in veterans services, we have made it a clear priority in the NHS mandate to make sure that the armed forces covenant becomes a reality in the NHS. We have now identified nine specialist prosthetic centres for veterans who have lost limbs and been injured in combat, and a massive amount of investment is going into services for veterans with mental health problems, including a 24-hour helpline. A lot of investment is being made at the national level and locally, and there will also shortly be dedicated resource for training local professionals on the ground.

I welcome that response. Will the Minister reassure me that he will properly join up his work with that of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence? Like many other Members, I know of at least two veteran constituents who clearly need joined-up health and welfare. The voluntary sector helps—including the Matthew Project’s new “Outside the Wire” service in Norfolk—and I expect the same of the Government, who have rightly signed the armed forces covenant.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. This is not just about providing good health care services, but doing so in a joined-up way. We now have a seriously injured leavers protocol to help the transition of servicemen and women who leave the armed forces and return to civilian life. That is about taking a holistic view of their health and care needs, and any other needs that they may have, in providing the right support when they return to civilian life. It is being rolled out very effectively across the country.