Combat Stress stops taking new referrals over funding crisis
Veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress says, ‘with great sadness’, it is no longer able to take on new cases in England and Wales.
The charity says its income has fallen from £16 million to £10 million in the current financial year, partly due to a cut in its NHS funding support. Until 2018 it received more than £3 million a year from NHS England, but 90% of its funding now comes from public donations.
While it had been receiving around 2,000 referrals for treatment a year, it will now send all new referrals from England and Wales to the NHS, which it says ‘needs to demonstrate’ it can deal with the increased demand. ‘I don’t believe the NHS can pick this up. That is why we exist,’ Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, told the BBC. She said that 80% of veterans who come to the charity have either used the NHS and have not had their needs met, or have felt unable to use NHS services.
The charity will still receive more than £1 million from NHS Scotland and will continue to take on new cases there and in Northern Ireland.
The NHS says new specialist services for ex-Service personnel have helped more than 10,000 people to date, with an NHS spokesman adding: ‘Our number-one priority is providing the best care for veterans and, after listening to what they wanted and a competitive process, the NHS has rolled out new specialist services to every part of the country, which have seen more than 10,000 people to date and are funded by more than £10 million every year. For anyone who has served in the Armed Forces and may be experiencing mental health difficulties, help is available through speaking to their GP or contacting the dedicated NHS services direct.’
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