New mental health service for armed forces veterans in Sheffield announced

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Plans for a new mental health service for armed forces veterans in and around Sheffield have been announced.

The Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (VMH CTS) for the north of England will be provided by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, working with the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health, Combat Stress. It will offer support to former forces personnel in communities from South Yorkshire and Cheshire up to the Scottish Borders.

Rollout of the new service, which will increase access to local care and treatment for 130 veterans with complex mental health issues over the next two years, will begin in early April. It will offer therapies for veterans experiencing psychological trauma (such as post-traumatic stress disorder), alongside a range of other treatments including help with substance misuse, physical health, employment, accommodation, relationships and finances.

The support will be provided by a team in tune with military needs and will be provided by staff based throughout the region. It will combine the practical health expertise of the NHS with the vital work and knowledge of Combat Stress.

Lawrence Atkins is a Specialty Doctor at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and worked as a Medical Officer in the Territorial Army for 14 years. He said: “Military life is very different to civilian life, both in terms of the way it is structured and the challenges it entails. When people leave the military, they can find it difficult to adapt to a civilian lifestyle and that transition can be problematic, long-term and significant.

“We know that within the military, there are still some barriers to recognising the existence of a mental health problem. People can end up leaving the forces with a mental health condition that has been left undisclosed and untreated.

“The Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (VMH CTS) is a new and innovative approach to the treatment of military veterans with complex mental health concerns. It’s part of a wider NHS strategy which is increasingly recognising the unique needs of the veteran population.

“This service recognises that veterans do not always engage well with more traditional NHS services, either because they don’t know what’s available or they don’t believe the NHS can help them. We therefore know there is a real need for this service and by working in partnership with Combat Stress, we hope to bridge the gap between the support offered by the NHS and military charities.

“We hope this will help to engage those veterans who traditionally seek support and treatment outside the NHS.”

Sue Freeth, Chief Executive of Combat Stress, said: “We are pleased to be working with Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to deliver the Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service.

“For almost a century Combat Stress has provided a dedicated service to support and treat former servicemen and women with mental health problems.

“Although most of today’s service personnel transition successfully from the military to civilian life, a significant minority develop mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Left untreated, this can have a devastating impact on veterans and their loved ones.

“In the last ten years Combat Stress has seen a 143% increase in referrals, with veterans having waited on average more than a decade before seeking help.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the NHS to provide more support and treatment options to former servicemen and women struggling with their mental health.”

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