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New measures to support servicemen

Defence Secretary Liam Fox has revealed a number of measures designed to tackle the "national scandal" of post-conflict suicides.

These include increasing the number of dedicated nurses for troops and veterans with mental heath problems, and introducing a new 24-hour helpline.

The wide-ranging measures announced follow a review of support for ex-armed forces personnel.

It was carried out by Conservative MP, and Iraq war veteran Andrew Murrison.

Dr Fox will tell the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that the introduction of 30 nurses and the new helpline will come into force immediately. Ministers are expected to accept all of the reforms put forward in the report.

Officials said the report by Mr Murrison - who is a serving Royal Navy reserve - includes calls for better health screening and new networks of voluntary support among a raft of recommendations.

Providing enough dedicated nurses for there to be one between every two mental health trusts will cost £1.5 million a year and the helpline less than £500 a year by using an existing service, they indicated.

Mr Murrison's report was commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron after research showed one in four Iraq veterans suffered mental health disorders and one in 20 had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Combat Stress - a charity which deals with veterans' mental health issues - received 1,250 new referrals in the last year, up two thirds since 2005 but still suspected to be a fraction of the true number of cases, government officials said.

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Ministry of Defence