1.The subject of mental health has become increasingly prominent both across the UK Armed Forces, not least following UK operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and across UK society generally. In January 2018 we launched the first part of our inquiry into Armed Forces mental health, and published a report, Mental Health and the Armed Forces, Part One: The Scale of mental health issues, in July 2018. This focused on the extent of mental health issues among both serving personnel and veterans.
2.We concluded that the vast majority of veterans leave the Services with no ill-effects and that the public perception that most veterans are ‘mad, bad or sad’ was not only a myth but harmful to veterans.
3.However, we were convinced that the minority of serving personnel and veterans who do suffer from mental health conditions need timely and appropriate care. The evidence we received suggested that they were not receiving this, that veterans had to wait too long to access treatment, and that the provision of care varied across the UK—as did implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant principle of ‘priority care’ for veterans. We therefore decided to look at the provision of mental health care for serving personnel, veterans and their families.
4.On 25 July 2018, we launched the second part of our inquiry, Mental Health and the Armed Forces, Part Two: The Provision of Care. Our call for evidence asked for submissions which addressed the following questions:
5.We held four oral evidence sessions, with contributions from veterans; Armed Forces charities; the Scottish Veterans Commissioner; medical practitioners and academics from across the UK; a journalist; and a member of our own Committee, Johnny Mercer MP. Our final session, where we heard from Government witnesses, was with the Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP; the Chief of Defence People, Lieutenant-General Richard Nugee CVO CBE; the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities, Jackie Doyle-Price MP; and the Director of Health & Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Services Commissioning at NHS England, Kate Davies CBE.
6.We also received 120 written submissions, with over two-thirds from serving personnel, veterans and their families, setting out their experiences of seeking and receiving mental health care in the UK. We did not publish individual submissions because of the personal and sensitive information in them. Instead we have set out in an Annex a detailed summary of the key issues raised by their experiences. We also quote their anonymised submissions throughout this report.
7.We thank all our witnesses for their oral and written evidence. We are also grateful to Combat Stress for facilitating our visit to their residential treatment centre at Tyrwhitt House, Surrey, in December 2018, to Professor Neil Greenberg, King’s College London, who acted as a Special Adviser to the inquiry and to Claire Kao, a Hansard Scholar from Cornell University, who helped prepare the Annex to this report.
1 Defence Committee, Eleventh Report of Session 2017–19, , HC813
2 Professor Greenberg’s declared interests were: Professor of Defence Mental Health, King’s College London; Trustee at Forces in Mind Trust and Walking with the Wounded; Lead for Military and Veterans’ Health, Royal College of Psychiatrists and a Director at March on Stress.
Published: 25 February 2019