As the country pays tribute to troops on Remembrance Sunday, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter has called for veterans to come forward and get services to help improve their physical and mental health.
The Department of Health has £5 million available to spend on new prosthetics centres for veterans in 2013. The money is part of a £22 million package to support veterans’ physical and mental health from 2010 to 2015.
So far this year, 32 veterans applied to get high specification prosthetic equipment, such as computer controlled knee units and specialist feet. The Department of Health has committed to funding clinically appropriate prosthetics for any veteran in England who has lost a limb in the service of their country. There are currently an estimated 1,335 veteran amputees in UK, and the majority live in England.
The Government wants to raise awareness of this funding so that all veterans who have lost a limb in the service of their country can benefit from the extraordinary, life-changing work the NHS can do with prosthetics.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:
“Service men and women who have been injured in the service of their country deserve the best possible care from the NHS - these are people who have made an astonishing contribution to our country and made great sacrifices.
“That’s why we are making up to £15 million available until 2015 to help these men and women.
“From April 2013 all prosthetics services will be planned and paid for centrally, replacing the patchwork of arrangements that are in place at the moment. This will improve services for veterans and in the longer term for everyone.”
To get the funding, veterans should contact their local GP or NHS disablement service.
The Government is also committed to improving the mental health support available for veterans. £1.8 million will continue to be invested every year over the next three years to improve mental health services for veterans and their families.
Calls to the Combat Stress helpline peak around military anniversaries, like Remembrance Sunday. The helpline received 432 calls around the 11th November last year, a 14 per cent increase, and the same increase is predicted this year. Over the past 18 months, the Department has funded the Big White Wall - an online mental health service supporting veterans by putting them directly in touch with mental health professionals. Over that short period, 2,400 service personnel, veterans and their families have signed up to the service.
Dr Dan Poulter added:
“The nation’s mental health and well-being is a priority for us and this includes that of our ex-military personnel.
“We are working closely with the Ministry of Defence, NHS, and the third sector to develop mental health services for veterans and their families. There are now over 50 veterans’ mental health professionals working country-wide, with more expected later on this year.”
Notes to editors
For press enquiries please contact the Department of Health press office on 0207 210 5416.
The Prime Minister asked Dr Andrew Murrison MD MP to review prosthetics provision for military amputees. He was asked to address concerns raised by those currently serving, veterans, and service charities including The British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (BLESMA) and Help for Heroes. The principal concern was that the NHS was not equipped with the resources and expertise to continue to provide the high level of service currently provided to military amputees by the Armed Forces. The key recommendation of the report is that provision should be made for national commissioning of specialist prosthetic and rehabilitation services for amputee veterans through a small number of multi-disciplinary centres in England. Other recommendations made are aimed at supporting this. These key recommendations were accepted by the Government, and the Prime Minster has committed £15 million over the remaining three years of this spending review period for implementation.
The Prime Minister asked Dr Andrew Murrison MP to carry out a study into the health of both serving and ex-service personnel to see what more could be done to assess and meet these needs; the report focused on mental health. The DH working with the MoD and service charities are leading in delivering the recommendations made by Dr Murrison.
Details of the Combat Stress helpline: Tel:- 0800 138 1619, Txt no:- 07537 404 719.
From April 2013, the NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for commissioning prosthetics and will work closely with the NHS, service charities and with representatives of veterans to invest in facilities that improve prosthetic services for veterans. For example, this could include buying new socket technology, which focuses on where the limb meets body, so that veterans benefit from a more comfortable and secure fit and Gait labs which help analyse how well someone is walking after they have a limb fitted and ensures that they get the right limb for them.