NHS England has published the findings from a national engagement on veterans’ mental health services that took place earlier this year. The report sets out key findings following views received from over 1,270 veterans, families, services charities, commissioners and providers.
NHS England is reviewing the findings of the engagement together with the findings of three pilots it recently funded to test enhanced models of care for mental health services for veterans. These pilots ran from November 2015 to 31 March 2016 and were provided by North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, which developed a joint substance misuse and mental health service model for veterans, as well as an outpatient service for veterans with moderate to severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder); and the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, which developed a model to address the barriers that some veterans experience in accessing mental health services.
Rates of mental health problems amongst serving personnel and recent veterans appear to be broadly similar to the UK population as a whole, but working age veterans are more likely to report suffering from depression. There is also growing evidence that some mental health conditions may present years after leaving the services. Currently, the NHS provides 12 mental health services for veterans across England. They enable specialist staff to care for veterans with mental health needs, direct them to the most appropriate service and give them effective treatment.
The NHS wants to develop services for veterans that are built for their particular needs; services that are accessible and offer the right care and support, regardless of when people leave the armed forces. The NHS also wants to provide a service which supports the wider family and a smoother transition from military to civilian life.
NHS England will formally respond to the findings of the engagement and the pilots, and will produce a clear plan in order to commission future veterans’ mental health services that have an evidence base and are aligned to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.
MHPF will continue to support the work of NHS England and highlights the invaluable role of the voluntary sector in addressing the mental health needs of veterans through the design and delivery of vital services both nationally and locally. We look forward to a formal response from NHS England soon.