NHS long term plan to create ‘national heroes service’ for veterans

Thousands more veterans who struggle with civilian life will benefit from new and expanded NHS services, including mental health support, as part of the NHS’ long term plan.

A new dedicated crisis service will provide intensive support to scores of the most vulnerable former soldiers, sailors and air men and women battling alcohol, drugs and mental health problems, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced.

It is part of a series of measures to ramp up bespoke services for veterans, backed by £10 million of investment, to ensure that specialist health support for veterans is available across the country.

The NHS will expand the new ‘Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service’ (TILS) and roll out veteran-friendly GP surgeries and hospitals as part of efforts to make sure those who have served their country get specialist help they deserve in every part of the health service.

There are around 2.6 million veterans living in the UK and around one in 20 will suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A smaller number will have severe and complex mental health needs.

Intensive support will be available around the clock to help them throughout their use of NHS services and will help address rising demand for care.

More veterans will be referred each year to the expanded Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service which has already helped almost 5,000 ex-service personnel and their families with the move back to civvy street since it was launched in April 2017.

TILS is designed to help tackle early signs of mental health difficulties and also includes help with alcohol and drug abuse along with social support such as help with employment, housing, relationships and finances.

More than 100 GP surgeries and dozens of hospitals have already signed up to a “Veteran Aware” scheme that makes sure doctors, nurses and other NHS staff take into account what former servicemen and women may have been through when treating them. Others are being encouraged to join up.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “The NHS long term plan will ensure that the health service will be there for those who have been prepared to give their all for their country. Ramping up services will help veterans get the specialist support they need at every level, no matter which NHS service they use across the country.”

As part of plans the NHS will be doubling the capacity of the Complex Treatment Service to treat nearly 1,000 veterans with more complex mental health needs to meet the increasing demand for care.

On the commitment to deliver more personalised care for veterans, Kate Davies, Director of Armed Forces at NHS England, said: “Our armed forces personnel are an immense source of pride for our county but veterans and their families remain some of our most vulnerable and increasingly need NHS support.

“As part of its long-term plan, the NHS is today stepping up its commitment to those who have courageously served our country meaning more veterans are able to get the specialist care they need, closer to home, which we know they want.

“The new service will be a critical lifeline to those who need it most putting veterans front and centre of future NHS services.”