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Meeting the mental and related health needs of veterans and families in Wales – new report

Wales has one of the UK’s leading services for meeting the mental health needs of veterans, but a new review  finds that more could be done to strengthen the national strategy in Wales to meet the needs of veterans and their family members.

Released today (Thursday 2 June 2016), the review entitled ‘Call to Mind: Wales’,  highlights that while much progress has been made in recent years in Wales with respect to meeting the mental and related health needs of veterans, further improvement is required.  Top priorities include increasing Veteran NHS Wales’ capacity, improving data to inform commissioning and service provision, improving mainstream services, and doing more to support families and carers.

The report is based on a series of stakeholder interviews in Wales with three groups: veterans and their families; statutory sector stakeholders; and those in the voluntary and independent sectors. Interviews were supplemented by a comprehensive review of key documents and engagement with fourteen voluntary sector organisations who work with veterans and their families in Wales.

The Wales review, part of a wider one-year review covering each of the devolved nations, was commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust and conducted by Community Innovations Enterprise to build on a similar and well-received review carried out in England in 2015.  The end result will be the first comprehensive assessment of how to meet the mental and related health needs for veterans and family members throughout the UK.

While recognizing the work already done in Wales to help this cohort, including the establishment of the only national veterans’ service in the UK, the report captures stakeholder views on further improvements required and identifies several opportunities that would help bring about such change, for example, through the Local Health Boards’ annually refreshed business plans. Suggested improvements include a need for:

  • Armed Forces Forums and Champions to work more effectively and consistently across Wales
  • A more strategic and coordinated approach to planning and commissioning across regions and sectors regarding veterans mental health, including urban and rural areas, and appropriate and timely responses to related health needs, such as physical health and dementia
  • Simple, clear, efficient and well-coordinated multi-agency assessment and referral pathways for complex psycho-social needs, particularly for high need groups such as Early Service Leavers, dual diagnosis patients, and veterans in the Criminal Justice System
  • Welsh policy-makers to ensure that veterans and family members’ mental and related health needs are considered in new legislation coming into force in Wales
  • Addressing barriers to veterans and families accessing GPs and other services and supporting veterans and families to be more willing to access mainstream services
  • Encouraging the cultural competence of mainstream services to ensure veterans’ needs are met on a sustainable basis, and addressing the needs of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder while recognizing the differing needs of those with common mental health problems
  • Improved data use and capture to inform long-term local level planning and commissioning
  • More evidence around the needs of, and access to information and services for, the practical, emotional and support needs of families of veterans with mental health problems
  • ‘Capacity-building’ families so they have the resilience and knowledge to identify, support and sustain the recovery of veteran-family members

The overall aim of the project is to help health service commissioners and service providers determine the most effective ways to assess the mental and related health needs of veterans and their families and to support the development of appropriate services to meet their needs, ensuring that valuable resources are spent wisely.

Writing in the foreword to the report, Darren Millar AM, Chair of the Cross Party Group for the Armed Forces and Cadets (4th Assembly), comments:  “This is a very important time of change in Wales with the advent of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) and Wellbeing of Future Generations Acts, both of which have important implications for continuing to meet the needs of veterans and their families.”

“The Call to Mind: Wales report is very timely in this respect and provides a sound assessment of the issues, our progress to date and where we need to be moving forward to ensure that any veteran and their family receive the best care at the earliest opportunity.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, says: “Our serving men and women, and the families who support them, deserve consistent and effective support. Unfortunately, mental health is an area where there continues to be a lot of stigma and, as this report shows, it is incumbent on commissioners, providers and practitioners to work together to ensure that needs are adequately assessed, and that money is spent and targeted wisely to effect sufficient service provision to meet those needs. This report provides real insight and evidence that make a valuable contribution in helping us to achieve better support for veterans and their family members across Wales.”

Dr Jon Bashford, who led the research for Community Innovations Enterprise, says: “Wales has an excellent national service model for helping veterans with mental health problems and there is much that can learnt from this for the UK as a whole. There are also new opportunities in Wales to strengthen this model and in particular to provide more help for the families of veterans who themselves may have mental health problems but who are also a key support for veterans.”

Download the report in English here and Welsh here.

ENDS

Ray Lock and Dr Jon Bashford are available for interview.  To arrange, or for a copy of the full report, please contact Alex Goldup at The PR Office on agoldup@theproffice.com / mobile:  07791 765 915/ direct dial: 020 7284 6941.

About the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT):

  • FiMT came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (‘the Fund’), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations. FiMT continues the Fund’s long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012.  Since 2004 the Fund has given more than £88 million to programmes supporting veterans. http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/.
  • The aim of the FiMT is to provide an evidence base which will influence and underpin policy making and service delivery in order to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to lead successful civilian lives.
  • FiMT awards grants (both reactive and proactive) and commissions research along three key themes: Evidence, Innovation and Collaboration.  All work is published to a high standard of reportage to add to the evidence base from which better informed decisions can be made. Read more about those FiMT have helped and reports they have published at the links below: