My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government have been considering what more could be done to support veterans suffering from mental health problems which are related to their active service. As a first step to help these veterans, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has decided to extend the scope of the Medical Assessment Programme (MAP), based at St Thomas's Hospital, London, to any veteran suffering mental health problems who has served in operations since 1982. This will include veterans of the Falklands conflict. The MAP will not provide treatment but will offer an assessment by an expert in the mental health problems that arise from military service, including, where appropriate, a recommendation to the individual and their GP for treatment. Veterans who have concerns about their mental health should seek a referral to the MAP by their doctor; the cost of the assessment will be borne by the MoD.
For the longer term, the MoD is working in partnership with four UK health departments and a number of mental health trusts to pilot a new community-based model of mental health service for veterans. The intention is to provide a service for veterans, offering expertise in veterans' mental health problems across the UK. This scheme will be piloted in five or six locations across the UK, with the first expected to be launched in the summer.
The MoD has also decided that personnel, both service and civilian, who have served in this theatre on Operation HERRICK and have wider concerns about the effect of their service on their health can be referred to the MAP for examination; this extends the arrangement already available for veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict and the current Iraq deployment (Operation TELIC). GPs will be informed of the outcome of the medical assessment with recommendations for further action where necessary.
Finally, reflecting the health concerns that have followed major operational deployments in the past, we have agreed a three-year extension to our original Operation TELIC health-monitoring research project being undertaken by the King's Centre for Military Health Research. It will also cover service personnel deployed to Afghanistan.