The audit, carried out with support from the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA), asked nearly 900 veterans about their experiences of serious ill-health and their views of how health and social care services had met their needs. It also gathered suggestions from the veterans about how health and social care services could be improved.
Most veterans felt their needs were being met well by the NHS, though there were some concerns expressed about access to social care services.
Veterans made a number of suggestions including how communication with the MOD could be improved, such as the provision of better information about the nuclear tests.
The survey was conducted by Miles & Green Associates Ltd and sponsored by the MOD at a cost of £75,000 and there is a report on the findings of the health needs audit.
In total, 891 questionnaires were sent out to veterans who had participated in the British Nuclear Tests in the 1950s and 1960s. More than 633 were returned, a response rate of 71 per cent. In addition 84 individuals took part in eight discussion groups which took place at various locations around the UK.
The Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Andrew Robathan, said:
The MOD will be considering the veterans’ suggestions in detail and in consultation with other Government departments such as the Department of Health.
We appreciate the help provided by the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association in helping to promote participation in the project with their members, and we will work with them to examine and respond to the issues raised by the report.
The Government recognises and is grateful to all the servicemen who were present at the nuclear testing programme. Their contribution ensured that the UK was equipped with an appropriate nuclear deterrent during the Cold War which, thankfully, we have never had cause to use.
Chairman of the BNTVA, Nigel Heaps, said:
Since April 2009 the BNTVA has worked closely with the Ministry of Defence and Miles & Green Associates to investigate the particular health needs of nuclear test veterans and their offspring with a view to identifying priorities and taking action to improve health. Having been fully involved at every stage of this work we are delighted to support the publication of its findings. During this period the BNTVA has been actively supported by our patron John Baron MP.
Information from the audit will greatly assist our charity in achieving our key aims; we desperately needed to quantify the health and wellbeing problems faced by Atomic Veterans to ensure we target our activities and resources to the greatest effect. This study is the first time that veterans themselves have been asked for their personal response to questions regarding their health and wellbeing.
We would also wish to extend the gratitude of our veterans to Miles & Green Associates for the very respectful co-operative approach they took to the work; this and their high degree of professional integrity is undoubtedly a significant factor in the quality of the results obtained.