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Veterans-focused mental health service launched by NHS

Veterans-focused mental health service launched by NHS

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20 Aug, 2021

Veterans suffering a mental health crisis will receive specialist care as part of the new Op Courage service, a collaborative project between NHS England and the Office for Veterans Affairs. Claire Withey, an associate solicitor in the military claims team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, reports …

Op Courage, a specialist mental health service, recently launched by the NHS, is a positive step towards ensuring that those who suffer from mental health problems following their military careers get the treatment they need and deserve. Under the scheme, NHS staff will work with military charities to provide rehab, therapy and, in extreme cases, inpatient care to hundreds of former Service personnel. This will be an invaluable partnership as NHS staff can provide the expertise in treating a variety of mental health conditions, and military charities, many of which are headed by ex-military personnel, can provide a real insight into the challenges of a career in the Armed Forces. 

It is intended that treatment will be available far more quickly than has been the case in the past, with those needing urgent help receiving a same-day referral. The scheme brings together a number of specialist services for veterans, meaning they will receive the very best in treatment. It also aims to help integrate those veterans with mental health problems back into civilian life, making transition an easier and more positive experience.

Why is this so important for veterans?

It is a sad but well-known reality that many of those finishing their careers in the Armed Forces will have developed mental health problems as a consequence of experiences during their service. These conditions, including PTSD, can often go undiagnosed and untreated, and when those individuals leave the Forces they often don’t know where to turn for treatment.

There are around 2.4 million veterans living in the UK, and around 1 in 20 will suffer from PTSD. A smaller number will have severe and complex mental health needs. The Op Courage initiative means that those veterans who need treatment will know where to turn. It will also relieve pressure on many of the military charities that have carried the burden of trying to help those with mental health problems. 

It is also a very welcome step after 18 months of living with the Covid pandemic, which has placed additional strain on the limited mental health care services available to those who need them, and has been a time during which many military charities have struggled.

The service is expected to treat around 5,000 people a year and will focus on those who are in crisis, at risk of self-harm or suicide, and those suffering from other problems such homelessness and addiction. Veterans will be able to access any of the three tiers of treatment from a single Op Courage service in each of the seven NHS regions.

What the scheme means for those already in civilian employment

There can be no question that the scheme will be an important step in ensuring that veterans receive the treatment they need in a timely way, which will make a veteran’s transition to civilian life easier, and will mean they can work towards securing employment and ensure that the many transferable skills developed during their military careers can be put to good use.

The scheme is also open to those who have already moved into new civilian careers but who still need support. Some will have done so without receiving treatment for their underlying mental health conditions, and the knowledge that this treatment is available will help them maintain their new jobs and hopefully gain in confidence in their new roles. Effective treatment may also unleash potential in some who have been held back by their problems, and will ultimately mean that career progression and a more successful civilian career is within reach.

If you are suffering from mental health problems as a result of your service, speak in the first instance to someone you trust about the issues you are experiencing. When you feel ready, you can use the excellent service being offered by the Op Courage initiative, which is such a positive step in ensuring that veterans get the best start possible in making the transition from military to civilian life.

HOW TO CONTACT OP COURAGE

North of England

Tel: 0800 652 2867
email: VTILS@cntw.nhs.uk
The Op Courage urgent care and support service is accessible by healthcare referral only.

The Midlands

Tel: 0300 323 0137
email: mevs.mhm@nhs.net
Includes the Op Courage urgent care and support service for the Midlands

East of England

Tel: 0300 323 0137
email: mevs.mhm@nhs.net
The urgent care and support service is currently provided by other NHS services, as detailed below

London

Tel: 020 3317 6818
email: cim-tr.veteranstilservice-lse@nhs.net
Includes the Op Courage urgent care and support service

South-east England

For services in Sussex, Surrey or Kent …
Tel: 020 3317 6818
email: cim-tr.veteranstilservice-lse@nhs.net

For services in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire …
Tel: 0300 365 2000
email: gateway@berkshire.nhs.uk

For the Op Courage urgent care and support service, call 02394 387 924 or email snhs.veteranshis.se@nhs.net

South-west England

Tel: 0300 365 2000
email: gateway@berkshire.nhs.uk
The urgent care and support service is currently provided by other NHS services, as detailed below

Urgent and emergency support from other NHS services

If you experience a mental health crisis you can also get help by dialling 111, booking an emergency GP appointment, visiting A&E or calling 999. If you're still serving, you can also call the military mental health helpline on 0800 323 4444

Click here for more information

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claire is an associate solicitor in the military claims team at Bolt Burdon Kemp She has particularly extensive experience in dealing with claims relating to orthopaedic and spinal injuries, and works hard to achieve the very best for her clients.

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