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Health: Stress-related Illness

Volume 712: debated on Monday 5 October 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken to assess and treat stress-related illnesses in (a) military personnel, and (b) other public servants. [HL5210]

Diagnosis and treatment of stress-related illnesses and other mental health disorders in members of the Armed Forces are performed by fully trained and accredited mental health personnel, and measures are in place to increase awareness at all levels and to mitigate the development of operational stresses. In Afghanistan, we deploy uniformed mental health nurses to provide in-theatre care and treatment for our personnel. If personnel need to leave the operational environment, then their care continues either on an out-patient or in-patient basis in the UK.

In the UK, our mental health services for military personnel are configured to provide community-based mental health care, primarily through our 15 military Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH) across the UK (plus satellite centres overseas), which provide out-patient mental healthcare. The DCMH mental health teams comprise psychiatrists, mental health nurses, clinical psychologists and mental health social workers. A wide range of psychiatric and psychological treatments are available (including psychological therapies, environmental adjustment and medication) where appropriate. The Ministry of Defence mental health services have particular expertise in treatments for psychological injury.

For the relatively small number of military patients who need it, in-patient care is currently provided by a group of seven NHS trusts located throughout England and Scotland, led by South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (SSSFT) through a central MoD contract.

The MoD is also committed to protecting the health, safety and well-being of its civilian employees and has a number of procedures in place to reduce stress at work based on the Health and Safety Executive's management standards. The MoD intranet web portal contains information on health promotion and includes specific advice to employees on how to reduce stress.

Responsibility for identification of the factors leading to stress rests with business areas, and line managers are required to adapt the culture of their business to reduce stress levels. This includes maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment.

We provide guidance and training for managers and supervisory staff in good management practices, as well as specific training on managing stress and recognising stress in others, some of which is delivered by our own business training organisation.

In cases of sick absence for a stress-related illness, MoD policy is to make an early referral to our occupational health providers.

Confidential support is also available through the MoD occupational welfare service, for employees affected by stress caused by either work or external factors. This includes “signposting” to external agencies where appropriate.

MoD civilians and other public servants seconded to MoD who deploy in support of operations overseas receive care in-theatre on the same basis as their military counterparts. Special arrangements are in place to provide psychological support to any civilian employee or secondee affected by post-traumatic stress following deployment on operations. This includes assessment and referral to a military DCMH if appropriate.