New mental health service for armed forces veterans
Rollout of the Veterans' Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (VMH CTS) will begin in April.
Plans for a new mental health service for armed forces veterans in the north of England have been announced.
The Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (VMH CTS) for the region will be provided by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, working with the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health, Combat Stress. It will offer support to former forces personnel in communities from South Yorkshire and Cheshire up to the Scottish Borders.
Rollout of the new service, which will increase access to local care and treatment for 130 veterans with complex mental health issues over the next two years, will begin in early April. It will offer therapies for veterans experiencing psychological trauma (such as post-traumatic stress disorder), alongside a range of other treatments including help with substance misuse, physical health, employment, accommodation, relationships and finances.
The support will come from a team in tune with military needs and will be provided by staff based throughout the region. It will combine the practical health expertise of the NHS with the vital work and knowledge of Combat Stress.
Lawrence Atkins is a Specialty Doctor at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and worked as a Medical Officer in the Territorial Army for 14 years. He said:
“Military life is very different to civilian life, both in terms of the way it is structured and the challenges it entails. When people leave the military, they can find it difficult to adapt to a civilian lifestyle and that transition can be problematic, long-term and significant.
“We know that within the military, there are still some barriers to recognising the existence of a mental health problem. People can end up leaving the forces with a mental health condition that has been left undisclosed and untreated.
“The Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (VMH CTS) is a new and innovative approach to the treatment of military veterans with complex mental health concerns. It’s part of a wider NHS strategy which is increasingly recognising the unique needs of the veteran population.
“This service recognises that veterans do not always engage well with more traditional NHS services, either because they don’t know what’s available or they don’t believe the NHS can help them. We therefore know there is a real need for this service and by working in partnership with Combat Stress, we hope to bridge the gap between the support offered by the NHS and military charities.
“We hope this will help to engage those veterans who traditionally seek support and treatment outside the NHS.”
Sue Freeth, Chief Executive of Combat Stress, said:
“We are pleased to be working with Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to deliver the Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service.
“For almost a century, Combat Stress has provided a dedicated service to support and treat former servicemen and women with mental health problems.
“Although most of today’s service personnel transition successfully from the military to civilian life, a significant minority develop mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Left untreated, this can have a devastating impact on veterans and their loved ones.
“In the last ten years Combat Stress has seen a 143% increase in referrals, with veterans having waited on average more than a decade before seeking help.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with the NHS to provide more support and treatment options to former servicemen and women struggling with their mental health.”
NHS England has chosen Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to become one of the providers of the new national Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service.
It builds on the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (VMH TILS) which launched on 1 April 2017 and provides the first intervention for veterans with a mental health need.
Veterans will be referred into the new Complex Treatment Service via the Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service. In the north, this is run by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. More information about the Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (VMH TILS) is available here.
To access the service, a veteran must:
- have served in the UK armed forces for at least one full day
- have been referred by one of the regional VMH TILS
- be registered or be able to register with a GP practice in England
About Combat Stress:
Combat Stress is the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health. For almost a century, the charity has helped former servicemen and women deal with issues including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Combat Stress provides support at treatment centres in Surrey and Ayrshire and through its network of community teams. Its 24-hour helpline (0800 138 1619) is open to all veterans and serving personnel, as well as families, friends and carers.
Find out more at: combatstress.org.uk.