Earlier this year we encouraged former regulars and reservists and their family members to participate in an NHS England survey about the provision of mental health services.
The survey closed on 31 March. NHS England have now said they have listened to feedback, and will announce plans shortly to improve mental health care for armed forces veterans.
Quoted in an Independent story about the rising number of armed forces compensation claims for mental disorders including PTSD, an NHS England spokesperson said:
“On leaving the armed forces, most people successfully transition back into civilian life. But some individuals can experience very traumatic situations, which can take a severe toll.
“While mental health awareness is improving, we can do more to identify issues, not just with PTSD but with wider problems linked to anxiety and depression. We have listened to feedback from veterans, their families and NHS specialists and will be announcing plans to improve mental health care for armed forces veterans shortly.”
The spokesman was right to emphasize that the vast majority of people leaving the armed forces make a successful transition - which includes many who have suffered injuries.
It was also right to mention that service-induced mental conditions are not confined to PTSD.
The theme of the Independent story is that, according to the latest Armed Forces Compensation Scheme statistics, the annual number of mental disorder pay-outs has increased by 379 per cent since 2009-10, but service men and women were slow to claim compensation because of the stigma attached to mental injuries, and when they do claim "are being left to struggle against an Armed Forces Compensation Scheme determined to give them as little as possible."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it has introduced “anti-stigma” campaigns to make it easier for service personnel to seek help for mental health problems, and had encouraged the submission of claims so they could be properly considered. He said:
“We are absolutely committed to the mental health of our armed forces and this increase in successful claims shows our campaigns are encouraging those who need help to come forward to get the compensation they deserve.”
The Independent mentions the 2014 study by the King’s Centre for Military Health at King’s College London, which found that PTSD rates among UK regulars returning from Iraq or Afghanistan ranged between 1.3 per cent and 4.8 per cent – comparable to the 3 per cent rate found in the general civilian population.
But the story also points out that these figures include the many forces personnel who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan but did not directly experience combat.
Some of these personnel may also experience issues arising from their deployment, but not directly combat-induced PTSD.
Among the minority who directly experienced fighting, the study found, PTSD rates were much higher, at about 7 per cent - more than twice the rate for the general civilian population.
There will be a lot of interest in the awaited NHS England announcement.
- Independent: Payouts to UK veterans with mental health disorders reach record levels
- GOV.UK: Armed forces compensation: what you need to know
- Combat Stress: Veterans
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