Armed Forces: Health Services

Defence written question – answered on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much funding his Department has allocated for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers returning from active duty to (a) England and (b) Wales in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

Financial information is not held in the format requested. Owing to the number of different internal budgets to which costs would be attributable, any detailed analysis of Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH) finances would therefore incur disproportionate costs. The majority of mental healthcare for service personnel is provided through MOD's 15 military-run DCMHs in the UK (with additional centres in Germany, Cyprus and Gibraltar), which have since 2004 provided out-patient mental healthcare for members of the armed forces.

In-patient care, when necessary, is provided in specialised Mental Health units under contract with an external provider. Between April 2004 and March 2009, this was provided by the Priory Healthcare Group, and costs in each financial year are contained in the following table:

Contract value (£ million)
1 December 2003 to 31 March 2004 0.4
1 April 2004 to 31 March 2005 4.2
1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006 4.5
1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007 3.4
1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008 3.9
1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009 3.3

These figures take into account the cost of assessing patients as well as any in-patient treatment programmes provided; the individual care needs of each patient will vary depending on their particular medical circumstances. They also include services provided by the Priory Group between 1 December 2003 and April 2004 prior to the formal contract start date.

The contract with the Priory Group has been replaced by one awarded in November 2008 to a partnership of seven NHS trusts led by South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust. They admitted their first patients under this contract in February 2009. Costs for its first year of operation will be available in summer 2010. Prior to April 2004, in-patient care was provided at MOD's Duchess of Kent psychiatric hospital at Catterick; full historic costs back to 1997 are not available.

The Ministry of Defence takes the mental health of its personnel very seriously. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious issue, and one we are making every effort to address, PTSD itself makes up only around 5 per cent. of the mental health burden of the armed forces. The majority of service personnel who develop a mental health condition will suffer from less serious conditions, such as neurotic or adjustment disorders, but we offer assessment and treatment to individuals who might be concerned about any aspect of their mental health.

The DCMHs are located to be convenient for major centres of military population, and support the provision of healthcare that is available through service primary care facilities. Many of the less serious mental health disorders are managed by primary care providers; sometimes cases are co-managed by DCMH staff and primary care staff.

While there are no DCMHs located in Wales itself, we nevertheless have arrangements in place to ensure that mental healthcare can be provided conveniently and flexibly, while reflecting the number of service personnel in the principality and their wide dispersion. Staff from the DCMH at Donnington in Shropshire run regular clinics in locations which cover all the major concentrations of personnel in Wales, namely Valley, St. Athan, Brawdy and Brecon, as well as at locations on the Welsh border such as Chepstow and Hereford. They will additionally visit individual patients as required at their home or other location. Personnel based in Wales who need to attend a DCMH will usually be referred to that at Donnington, although other units, such as those in Portsmouth and Plymouth, may be used if more convenient.

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