Armed forces’ veterans suffering mental ill health will now be able to get specialist mental health and rehabilitation support, NHS England has said.
The ‘Op Courage’ service, launched this week by NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, will provide therapy, rehabilitation services and, in extreme cases, inpatient care to hundreds of former soldiers, sailors and RAF personnel each year. Those needing urgent help will receive a same-day referral, it said.
The “high intensity” treatment has already been tested in some areas and will be rolled out across the country by next month. The aim is to help to veterans with mental ill health better integrate back into everyday life.
More than 13,000 former troops have benefited from specialist care for lower-level problems such as anxiety and depression, NHS England said.
Almost 2,000 more had received help for more complex problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The new service, which is expected to treat around 500 people a year, will focus on those in crisis, at risk of self-harm or suicide, or suffering other problems such as homelessness and addiction, it added.
“Anyone can be affected by mental ill health but armed forces veterans may have seen and experienced things that few others – thankfully – will,” said Stevens.
“That can create a special set of challenges which working with military charities helps to overcome and that it what is at the heart of Op Courage – ensuring that the NHS is a ‘National Hero Service’,” he added.
It is estimated there are around 2.4 million veterans living in the UK and around one in 20 will suffer from PTSD. A smaller number will have severe and complex mental health needs, NHS England said.