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Armed Forces: Severely Wounded

House of Lords written question – answered on 18th June 2009.

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Photo of Lord Morris of Manchester Lord Morris of Manchester Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to ensure a seamless transition from military to civilian healthcare and ongoing care for severely injured or disabled service personnel.

Photo of Baroness Taylor of Bolton Baroness Taylor of Bolton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Defence and Security) (also in the Ministry of Defence), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (International Defence and Security) (also in Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The majority of personnel who suffer serious injuries, including those who do not return to full fitness, who wish to continue in-service are able to do so, provided that there are worthwhile military roles for them to fulfil. Such cases will continue to receive treatment and rehabilitation from the Defence Medical Services (DMS) for as long as they remain in the Armed Forces.

In those cases where a decision has to be taken medically to discharge an individual, the specific DMS team which has been caring for that individual will begin a liaison with appropriate civilian healthcare providers (eg the general practitioner, primary care trust, civilian mental health team or NHS trust) to ensure the transfer of care and the patient's records takes place. In addition, we have specialist health social workers who manage the individual's wider resettlement issues, liaising with relevant civil agencies such as local housing authorities, financial authorities, service welfare and charitable organisations with the aim of ensuring that the individual's transfer into the civilian environment is as smooth and as seamless as possible.

In particular, arrangements have been put in place to ensure that amputees who have been fitted with high-quality prosthetics while in service will continue to receive the same level of limb-fitting support from the NHS when the individual leaves the service, be it on medical discharge or after completion of their engagement. MoD and UK health departments have agreed protocols to ensure the transfer of clinical care and financial responsibility from the MoD to the NHS.

Since 1953, when Ministry of Pensions hospitals were transferred to the NHS, war pensioners, and more recently recipients of Armed Forces compensation scheme awards, have been entitled to receive priority treatment at NHS hospitals for conditions accepted as due to service, subject to clinical need. In 2007, this entitlement was extended to all veterans who are assessed by their GP to have a condition related to their military service. War pensioners under both schemes may also be entitled to other benefits including free NHS prescriptions and aids or appliances if they are prescribed for the accepted disablement.

For veterans who may develop a mental health condition after their discharge, we are currently piloting new models of community-based mental healthcare that will address assessment and treatment of veterans' mental health problems in the long term. The pilots are NHS-led and reflect NHS best practice. Two-year pilots are running at six NHS sites in England, Scotland and Wales. Evaluation of the pilot areas is now underway, and if they prove successful will be rolled out across the UK.

In the interim, for areas not yet involved in the pilots, veterans with operational service after 1982 who are concerned about their mental health can attend our medical assessment programme (MAP) based at St Thomas's Hospital, London. The MAP offers assessment by an expert in mental health issues in military service and will include, where appropriate, a recommendation to the individual and their GP for treatment. MoD also provides assessment and treatment for demobilised reservists with operational service since 2003 following an overseas operational deployment as a reservist, and who believes that the deployment may have adversely affected their mental health. Details are available at the following link: MoD is also the major donor to the charity Combat Stress, which offers care to ex-service personnel suffering from service-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

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