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Mental Health (Veterans)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 19th December 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 2:30 pm, 19th December 2011

What support his Department provides to armed forces veterans with mental health disorders.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Yes. We will continue to work closely with the Department of Health on the mental health care of our former service personnel. That includes implementation of all the recommendations in the “Fighting Fit” report produced by my hon. Friend Dr Murrison.

Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Martin Pratt, about whom I wrote to my right hon. Friend in November, was a constituent of mine before his untimely death. He served his country in the SAS and his experiences were sufficiently traumatic that, long after he had left the Army, he suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder which ultimately led to alcoholism and the death of a much loved husband, father and grandfather. It seems clear that there is little understanding in the civilian medical community of such cases of later-life PTSD in military personnel, and very little joined-up thinking between agencies responsible for the care of veterans. I hope that my right hon. Friend can assure Martin’s family and the whole House that he will look into this case in detail with his colleagues in the Department of Health so that the lessons that plainly need to be learned are learned.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My hon. and learned Friend makes a good point. He will understand that it would be invidious of me to comment on an individual case, but he will understand that I have a particular regimental interest in Mr Pratt. This is a joint venture between the MOD and the Department of Health, and my hon. and learned

Friend should have received—or he will receive it shortly; I have a copy here—a letter from the Minister of State, Department of Health, my right hon. Friend Mr Burns, explaining what should have been available and what may not have taken place in this particular case. My hon. and learned Friend must see that letter himself. We are very concerned about this. We are pursuing the “Fighting Fit” report from my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire and we are putting in place many measures that will assist people who have PTSD and other mental health problems.

Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Labour, Dumfries and Galloway

At the end of last year, the strategic defence and security review announced 35 mental health nurses. Experience shows us that many of the cases that have been diagnosed as either PTSD or veterans with mental health problems date back to the first Gulf war. How confident is the Minister that we will have enough appropriately qualified nurses, and is it the intention to be able to cover all parts of the country?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

It certainly is the intention to cover all parts of the country. I think that the hon. Gentleman shares my concern that people with mental health problems who have been in the services and who have been affected by their service are given particular care by the Department of Health, assisted by the MOD, and we are determined that that should happen. The extra mental health nurses are being rolled out and I think that most are already in place. That is a Department of Health responsibility, but most, if not all, are already in place, and we certainly take this very seriously. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has visited the King’s centre for military health research, but I recommend that he does so and that he talks to Professor Wesseley—Mr Murphywill know him—who does an excellent job there on our behalf dealing with mental health.