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Lib Dems lead debate calling for ringfenced mental health funding for armed forces

March 11, 2020 7:56 AM
By Rugby Lib Dems

Jamie Stone MP and Cllr Tim Douglas

Jamie Stone MP and Cllr Tim Douglas

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone will today 11th March 2020 lead a debate in Parliament where he will urge the Government to "make it easier for veterans and their families to access peer-led mental health support."

The Highlands MP, who is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Defence, secured the Westminster Hall debate after winning cross-party support for his Bill which would require the Government to ringfence mental health spending for veterans and members of the armed forces.

The campaign led by the Liberal Democrats comes in response to cuts which have left mental health charities, such as Combat Stress, no longer able to take on new referrals in England.

On the day of the Budget, Mr Stone will use his debate to raise awareness about the increasing challenges faced by veterans trying to access mental health support.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Liberal Democrat Defence spokesperson Jamie Stone said:

"Since introducing my Bill to Parliament, many veterans have been in touch to tell me that armed forces personnel need access to care provided by people who know how mental health impacts people who have served.

"Most of us will never be able to understand what our veterans have been through. That is why some of the best care available comes in the form of peer to peer support groups. However, Conservative cuts are making it harder for these services to exist, nevermind be set up.

"It's not rocket science. The Government should make it easier for veterans and their families to access peer-led mental health support. I therefore urge Ministers to get serious and back my Bill."

Supporting Mr Stone's campaign, Chief Executive of Combat Stress Sue Freeth, added:

"82% of the veterans treated by Combat Stress have tried to engage with NHS services but their needs have not been met. The government needs to ringfence funding for specialist services such as ours, that understand and can successfully treat those veterans with complex PTSD."

The Bill:

Short title:
National Health Service Expenditure Bill

Long title: A Bill to require expenditure on mental health services and on health services for veterans and members of the armed forces to be identified separately in National Health Service expenditure plans and outturns; and for connected purposes.

So far, the co-sponsors are:

  • Nia Griffith - Labour Defence Spokesperson
  • Stuart MacDonald - SNP Defence Spokesperson
  • Mark Garnier (Conservative)
  • Wendy Chamberlain (LD)
  • Munira Wilson (LD)

On funding issues:

The Care Quality Commission rated two out of four MoD mental health centres as inadequate or needing improvement between April 2017 and January 2019. There were at least 50% shortfalls in both uniformed and civilian psychiatrist posts in 2017-18.

The Defence Committee report published exactly a year ago to the day provides a good indication of the scale of the funding issue - see here.

On suicides:

For the 20-year period 1999-2018, 310 suicides occurred among UK regular Armed Forces personnel: 292 among males, and 18 among females. This represents an addition since the previous notice of four deaths in 2012, one death in 2014, two deaths in 2016 and nine deaths in 2017 that have now been confirmed as suicide by a coroner and a further five deaths in 2018.

Source: MOD Suicides in the UK Regular Armed Forces: Annual Summary and Trends Over Time 1 January 1984 to 31 December 2018

Letter to Chancellor:

Please see below Mr Stone's letter to the Chancellor.

Dear Chancellor,

Mental Health Support for Veterans - Spring Budget

We are writing to you ahead of the Spring Budget to ask that you ringfence funding for mental health support for armed forces personnel, veterans, and service families.

You will be aware that cuts to the NHS have meant that mental health charities such as Combat Stress, which provide vital support to military veterans, are no longer able to take on new cases in England. With a spike in suicide amongst service families, it is urgent that the Government commits to properly supporting people who risk so much for their country.

The Government's pledge to commit £34bn into the NHS and social care is significant and welcomed, as is your declared intention to make mental health treatment as urgent as physical treatment. We are concerned that if mental health treatment for military personnel, veterans, and their families is not ringfenced, then much of the specialised support available will struggle to continue.

On Tuesday 25 February 2020, I will present a Bill to suggest we do exactly that. All here signed hope you can support our cross-party effort to recognise the importance of these mental health services in the Spring Budget.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jamie Stone
MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
Liberal Democrat Defence spokesperson