The government has unveiled a package of measures designed to improve the support available to Armed Forces veterans who have developed health problems as a result of their military service.
It will be reiterated to healthcare professionals that all former servicemen and women will be able to receive priority NHS treatment where their injuries or ill health are suspected to have been caused by their service.
The government is also to pilot a scheme providing access to clinicians with expertise in veterans’ mental health, who will provide assessments and help them obtain suitable treatment.
The new model will be tested at six sites across the UK for two years. If deemed a success, it will be rolled out nationwide.
Each site will have a trained community veterans’ mental health therapist. Veterans will be able to access the service directly or through their GP, ex-services organisations, the Veterans’ Welfare Service, or their social service departments.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said: “Under long-standing practice, war pensioners have had priority NHS access, but that has not always been fully understood. I want to make sure that everyone understands the current provisions and expand the eligibility for priority treatment in the NHS to veterans who may not yet have claimed a war pension.”
In October, it was revealed that the Ministry of Defence was conducting a major study into brain injury among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, amid fears that thousands may have suffered damage after being exposed to high-velocity explosions.