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Veterans: Government Services

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 2 February 2023

14. What steps his Department is taking to ensure Government services meet the needs of veterans. (903414)

We are working to better understand the needs of veterans and their families through research and data collection with organisations such as the Office for National Statistics. We also regularly engage with the charities sector and with veterans directly, for example through the veterans’ survey, which closes today.

Our veterans are civilians in waiting to return to civilian life. Given the recent census and new data on veteran communities, are there any plans to improve healthcare services for ageing veterans with muscular and skeletal problems incurred through military service?

Veterans healthcare is a responsibility across the nation, with 1,789 GP surgeries and 132 hospital trusts now veteran accredited. It is a low level of commitment, but it makes the world of difference to veterans who are trying to access musculoskeletal services. I am determined that by the next general election, every GP surgery in the country will be veteran accredited and every hospital trust too. I will work hard to ensure we achieve that ambition.

In Burnley and Padiham we have long supported our armed forces and veterans, including through brilliant local organisations such as Healthier Heroes and the Burnley and Padiham branch of the Royal British Legion, which support veterans in the community. We also have local events such as Padiham on Parade, which takes place every June as part of Armed Forces Week. Can I invite my right hon. Friend the Minister to Burnley to sit with these organisations and see what more we can do to join up Government support with local organisations so that we ensure this is the best country to be a veteran in?

I thank my hon. Friend for his continued advocacy for a cause that I know is dear to his heart. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs is all about blending third sector and statutory provision. Veterans do not care where their care comes from as long as it is professional and evidence based and they have that community. It is our responsibility, through the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, to ensure they have that care, but it will often be delivered by different groups across the country. As my hon. Friend highlights, there are some wonderful groups up in Burnley doing that, and I would be more than delighted to visit him and talk about how we can support them better.

Can the Minister provide an update on the work undertaken by the Defence and Security Accelerator on behalf of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs on veteran health innovation? What progress has been made to support mental health in the community?

This year we established Op Courage and Op Fortitude, and we are looking at designing a clear, physical healthcare pathway for veterans. We are building pillars of support across the United Kingdom. We have put £5 million into a health innovation fund. A lot of individuals came back from Afghanistan and Iraq with injuries that would have been unsurvivable 10 or 15 years ago, with a level of complexity that we had not dealt with before. We are putting money into understanding the science behind that to ensure they have prosthetics for the rest of their lives, not just the next two or three years. There is a commitment from the nation under the armed forces covenant to special care for those who are seriously injured. I am more than happy to meet the hon. Member and talk her through some of the other work we are doing.