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Mental Health Support for Veterans and Military Charities

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 19 April 2022

10. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of mental health support for veterans and military charities. (906519)

NHS England has several bespoke services for veterans, including Op Courage, the veterans’ mental health and wellbeing service, which provides a complete mental health care pathway for veterans. Veterans can benefit from personalised care plans, ensuring that they can access support and treatment both in and out of hours. As part of the care and support available to veterans, Op Courage works with military charities and local organisations to provide healthcare and address wider health and wellbeing needs, including for drug and alcohol addiction.

My constituency of Airdrie and Shotts has a long military history, with many people having previously served in the armed forces. When I meet veterans from my constituency, we often discuss the mental health of veterans. The war in Ukraine will undoubtedly have an immediate and lasting impact on the mental health of veterans, as they may be reminded of their experiences of war. To help support our veterans, will the Department come forward with a package of emergency funding for armed forces mental health charities?

The hon. Lady raises a very good question. Last year, we committed an additional £2.7 million to further expand Op Courage following the recent events in Afghanistan, and NHS England has put in place several bespoke services and initiatives to meet the needs of our armed forces community. In addition to Op Courage, there is the veterans trauma network, the veterans prosthetic panel and the veteran-friendly GP accreditation scheme, but given ongoing events in Ukraine, we will of course keep everything under review. I am very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss further what may be required.

Our veterans have risked their lives for our country and deserve excellent mental health support. We must go even further: from the military frontline to frontline workers who have kept us safe, everyone deserves proper mental health provision. People have stepped up to protect our country and save lives during the pandemic, so is it any wonder that teachers and NHS staff are so furious with the comments made by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), about how they would go back to the staffroom and have a “quiet drink”, in an attempt to justify the indefensible actions of the Prime Minister? What does this say about the effect of mental health on our frontline staff? Will the Minister please condemn those comments and apologise for the hurt caused by those remarks?

I am very happy to say that we of course thank very much all the staff who have been on the frontline, whether veterans or teachers, and involved in everything that kept us going throughout the pandemic. We are of course very much aware of the impact of those stresses and strains on mental health. There is additional support for mental health, and there will continue to be additional support for young people’s mental health and for adult mental health. That is one reason why I launched a call for evidence last week to inform a new 10-year cross-departmental mental health vision, and I urge everybody to input into that process before it closes on 5 July.