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East Lancashire military veterans being asked how to improve mental health services

The launch of a national survey by NHS England will help improve the care available for veterans as they move from military to civilian life. The survey is a chance for veterans to share their experiences and views of existing mental health services and to understand the reasons why some people have not sought or received support and treatment.  Family members and carers, as well as staff and organisations that are providing treatment and support in this area, are all able to take part.

The NHS provides 12 mental health services across England specifically for veterans. They enable specialist staff to care for veterans with mental health needs, direct them to the most appropriate service and give them effective treatment.

Dr Phil Huxley, the Chair at NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Although most military veterans are able to make the transition to civilian life successfully, for some this can be a difficult time.  Leaving the structure of military surroundings and engaging in the uncertainty of a new life can be difficult.  Many military veterans may have experienced or witnessed traumatic events which can lead to nightmares, flashbacks or a current sense of danger even when they are out of the combat areas.  For some people this can lead to low mood, avoiding places or using alcohol or drugs as a way of trying to cope.”

East Lancashire CCG has for two consecutive years funded two Military Veteran organisations. These are Salute and Veterans in Community (VIC).

The work of both Salute and VIC is closely aligned to the CCG cases for change as the support that they are providing to the armed forces community, impacts upon both how this important community uses both planned care, emergency care and community care services.

Dr Huxley added: “Veterans find it difficult speaking to clinicians as they do not have a particular understanding of war trauma, therefore both Salute and VIC provides the familiarity and understanding that so many veterans require. Mental illness is a condition exacerbated by military service and the NHSneeds to listen and learn from the experiences of veterans.”

To access the survey and supporting information, please visit www.engage.england.nhs.uk/survey/veterans–mental-health-services.  The deadline for responses is 5pm on 31 March 2016.