Mental health in the military
Mental health in the military: Services for army personnel falling ‘far short’
A cross-party group of MPs has criticised the Government for doing “nowhere near enough” to improve the mental health care it offers service personnel and veterans.
In a new report, the House of Commons defence select committee says the current system still “falls far short” of what army personnel need and deserve.
In particular, the report claims the Government spends less than £10m a year on specific mental health services for veterans across the country.
It says veterans face wide variations in the quality of treatment available and demand is “swamping available capacity”.
The report also warns that the stigma around mental health and the fear of career damage remain key disincentives to many service personnel and veterans seeking help.
And it adds that when help is sought, there is an entirely “unacceptable variation” in the quality of care offered to serving personnel based in different locations in the UK.
Specifically, the Care Quality Commission rated two of the four Ministry of Defence mental health care centres it inspected either as requiring improvement or as inadequate.
Consistency of care
In the report, the Committee urges the MOD to improve the consistency of care received when personnel decide to come forward.
“We acknowledge the work that the MOD and the UK health departments are doing to improve the mental health care provided to both serving personnel and veterans; but it is simply nowhere near enough,” said Defence Committee member and Chair of the APPG for the Armed Forces Covenant, Ruth Smeeth.
“Fundamental issues still clearly exist, with scandalously little funding allocated to veteran-specific services, and it is unacceptable that veterans and their families should feel abandoned by the state as a result.
“It is vital that veterans get the quality of care they need when they need it, no matter where they live, supported by a world-class national centre. Only then will the Armed Forces communities believe that the promises made in the Covenant are not just hollow words.”
In response, a Government spokesperson said: “NHS England is committed to providing mental health care around the country so anyone in need of treatment can access help as close to home as possible. This includes bespoke services for veterans, which have been supported by an extra £10 million as part of the NHS’ long term plan.
“At the same time, the MOD has increased spending on mental health support for those serving in the armed forces to £22 million a year, and is working to tackle the stigma around asking for help throughout the military community.”
The full report – Mental Health and the Armed Forces, Part Two: The Provision of Care – is available to read here.
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