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Helping our heroes: NHS urges veterans to get help despite coronavirus outbreak

As the nation gears up mark to the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the NHS wants all those who have served their country to know that dedicated help and support is still available despite the coronavirus outbreak.

One of its top doctors has also today payed tribute to the many veterans who are working as ‘hidden heroes’ in the NHS’s efforts to tackle the virus.

To date the world-leading services have improved the lives of thousands of former services personnel supporting their physical and mental health needs for those who struggle with civilian life.

While a growing number of veterans have been referred for help year-on-year, latest data indicates a drop in the number of people reaching out to specialist services in April.

But despite the coronavirus outbreak help is still available and has been adapted to offer more digital services, including video consultations with psychotherapists and support by phone, in response to social distancing rules and travel restrictions in place.

The NHS lead for armed forces’ health has today issued a timely call urging veterans to seek help as dedicated services remain open for business.

Kate Davies CBE, Director of Armed Forces at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “This weekend’s VE Day commemorations are a reminder of the remarkable difference our armed forces have made to our country throughout history and the contribution they continue to make today on the NHS frontline in the fight against coronavirus.

“At a time when we are facing significant uncertainty and long periods of isolation which can be particularly worrying, it has never been more important for veterans to reach out if they need support– help is available – with new digital offers which ex-personnel are already benefiting from.”

The NHS is committed to making sure that every veteran gets the best possible support for their physical and mental health with dedicated services available for those who struggle with civilian life including targeted mental health services for veterans.

These include the NHS Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS), which identifies and treats mental health needs early, and the NHS Veterans' Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS), which gives intensive support to those with military-related complex mental health concerns not improved by earlier care and treatment.

Since the TILS service was launched in April 2017 it has had over 11,000 referrals up to May 2020, while there have been almost 1,500 CTS referrals in total up to April 2020.

Both offer local community-based support ranging from therapeutic treatment for complex challenges or trauma, to help meeting wider needs that can have an impact on mental health, such as physical health, employment, housing, finances, social relationships and drug and alcohol misuse.


NHS care for veterans living in Wirral

Talking Together Wirral, Wirral’s local IAPT service offer a free, confidential talking therapy service on behalf of the NHS. They have identified a Veteran ‘champion’ with experience of working in a service specifically for veterans and have established links with Veterans in Mind, providing psychological therapy and recovery interventions to ex-service men and women who have served in the armed forces, and Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

Unemployed veterans who receive health treatment in Wirral can also get help moving back into employment via The Poppy Factory (the country’s leading employability charity for veterans), based at The Stein Centre at St Catherine’s Hospital in Birkenhead. The charity works closely with health and social care partners in the area, including GPs, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group. An experienced employability consultant is embedded in the NHS multidisciplinary team to deliver comprehensive employment support to veterans who are wounded, sick or injured.