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NHS England to improve mental health care for armed forces veterans

NHS England is implementing a series of new measures aimed at ensuring military veterans get mental health care in a timely manner.

Feedback from a nationwide campaign to give veterans a say in how services are delivered earlier this year highlighted a need to improve awareness of where veterans should go for help.

The survey also found that veterans wanted health professionals to have a greater understanding of the unique issues faced by those coming from the armed forces.

Veterans also wanted a smoother transition between armed forces healthcare and the NHS as well as more support for the health needs of the families.

Responses also pointed to a need for services that support the recognition and treatment of early warning signs of mental health illness and diagnosis, as well as trauma, alcohol and substance misuse.

Dr Jonathan Leach, chair of NHS England’s Armed Forces and their Families Clinical Reference Group, said: “There is no doubt that NHS staff work as hard as they can to provide the best quality of care for everyone, including military veterans.

“However our engagement campaign has provided invaluable feedback from veterans themselves that has shown how we can improve and tailor our services better.

“This means starting from when armed forces personnel are nearing the end of their service. 

“It is at this point we need to identify what onward support they will require from the NHS so the right care and treatment is in place ready for them.

“I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in our survey and we will now focus on implementing our plans to ensure armed forces veterans receive the highest possible standard of mental health care. ”

NHS England is working with the Ministry of Defence and veteran charities to develop the new services, which will be reflected in future commissioning arrangements.

Procurement is expected to start this month with provider contracts starting in April 2017.

However, additional services will also be developed in this financial year to further improve mental health services for veterans.