Armed Forces: Medical Treatment

House of Lords written question – answered on 12th November 2009.

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Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many service personnel have been (a) hospitalised in each of the past five years, (b) off duty for 12 months or more, and (c) medically discharged due to mental illness attributed to service in Afghanistan.

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 MoD's Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) organisation publishes on its website statistics on new attendances to the MoD's in-patient contractor, effective back to 2007. Equivalent verified data prior to 2007 are not available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. New patients assessed as having a mental disorder and admitted to the MoD's in-patient contractor by deployment are shown in the following table. Note that, for those who deployed to Afghanistan, this does not specifically attribute their disorder to that deployment.

Year All first admissions assessed with a mental disorder Of which, patients who had previously deployed to Afghanistan
2007 247 33*
2008 213 35
2009 (to 30 June 2009) 108 19

* Prior to April 2007, precise individual deployment dates are not available centrally. Therefore, for in-patients in the first quarter of 2007, it is only possible to identify whether they were deployed at some point prior to 1 April 2007 but not whether this was prior to their in-patient admission date.

The single services record, for management reasons, the numbers of personnel who are at any one time "unfit for task" or "unable to deploy", although their records do not identify the length of time each individual has been so categorised. Details of the numbers of personnel fit for task and fit to deploy in each quarter since 2006 were given in my Answers dated 20 and 22 January 2009 (Hansard, cols. 1262-64W and 1664-66W) and 28 April 2009 (Hansard, col. 1156W). The majority of those personnel who fall into the category of medically "not fully fit" remain fit enough to work in some capacity and therefore continue to make a contribution to operational effectiveness, often within theatres of operation.

The number of UK Service personnel medically discharged with a principal condition of mental and behavioural disorders during the period 2004-08 is shown in the following table.

Of this total, number previously deployed to Afghanistan Total 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Naval Service1 6 185 29 46 42 39 29
Army 27 602 121 119 111 114 137
RAF 8 271 65 38 78 49 41

1 includes Royal Navy and Royal Marines

Figures have been compiled using the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems version 10 (ICD 10 codes F00-F99).

Note that a previous deployment should not be assumed to be the cause of the principal disability leading to medical discharge. Although medical boards recommend medical discharges they do not decide whether the principal disability is attributable to service. A medical board could take place many months or even years after an event or injury and it is not clinically possible in some cases to link an earlier injury to a later problem which may lead to a discharge.

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