Mental Health

NHS Launches New Veterans' Mental Health Service

Those needing urgent help will receive a same-day referral under the Op Courage service.

The NHS has launched a new mental health service for veterans called 'Op Courage' which aims to provide specialist care for ex-military personnel.

Through the service, Armed Forces veterans suffering a mental health crisis will be provided with therapy, rehab services and, in extreme cases, inpatient care.

Doctors, nurses and other NHS staff will be working with military charities to provide this support, and better understand the experiences and issues faced by those who have risked their lives for their country.

The new service is expected to treat about 500 people a year, focusing on those at risk of self-harm or suicide, or those who are suffering other problems such as homelessness and addiction.

The "high-intensity" treatment has already been trialled in some areas and a full nationwide rollout of Op Courage is expected by next month.

It was launched on Thursday by NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens at the annual King's Centre for Military Health Research veterans' mental health conference at King's College London.

He said at the launch: "We owe a special debt of gratitude to those who risk all for their country and the NHS is determined to do its part in honouring that.

"Anyone can be affected by mental ill-health but Armed Forces veterans may have seen and experienced things that few others, thankfully, will.

The service is expected to treat about 500 veterans a year.

"That can create a special set of challenges which working with military charities helps to overcome and that is what is at the heart of Op Courage – ensuring that the NHS is a National Hero Service," he added.

Praising the new initiative, Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer, said: "One of the biggest challenges we face with veterans' mental healthcare in this country is making sure those who need help know where to turn.

"Op Courage, a collaborative piece of work between NHS England and the Office for Veterans Affairs, will provide a clear single route for accessing specialist care.

"Looking after our veterans is a national responsibility in which we all have a role to play. We all have a duty to ensure Op Courage is known about and understood up and down this country. Help is available; you can get better. Speak up. Have courage."

There are currently about 2.4 million veterans living in the UK and around one in 20 will suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while a smaller number will have severe and complex mental health needs, the NHS said.

Veterans in need of support will be able to access any of the three tiers of treatment from a single Op Courage service in each of the seven NHS regions.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor announced in his Budget statement an additional £10m of funding to help veterans with mental health needs.

The funding will be provided to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and will help deliver charitable projects and initiatives in the UK, to ensure veterans with mental health needs can access services and support.

Cover image: Royal Navy.