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Psychological services for ex-military staff ‘under threat’

12 November 2012

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NHS-run psychological services for ex-military personnel are at risk in the North West of England thanks to the government’s health reforms, it has been claimed.

The current specialised IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Services) contract held by Pennines Mental Health Trust – the main provider of specialised psychological services for ex-military staff in the region – with the soon-to-be abolished North West strategic health authority (SHA) is due to run out in April 2013, when the handover to the new commissioning entities is due to go live.

However, the provider is yet to receive a commitment from the GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the area to renew the service beyond April 2013, leading to worries that the service will be “lost” in the reorganisation.

A senior clinician from Pennies Mental Health Trust raised the alarm over the future of the specialised service to Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham.

“I have been contacted by Pennies Mental Health Trust because they are concerned this crucial psychological service will become a casualty of the government’s reorganisation,” he said.

Burnham has challenged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to step in and broker a deal with the CCGs in the area to ensure the service’s survival into the new NHS.

“This is too valuable a service to lose,” he said.

“As operations are scaled down in Afghanistan, ex-soldiers are going to need this service more than ever and as demand peaks, it would be disastrous if it was to become a victim of the government’s reforms.

“Psychological services for the ex-military is hugely valued. People need to talk about how they are feeling especially after all they have experienced out on the frontline. As Remembrance Sunday is still fresh in all of our minds, Jeremy Hunt must commit to stepping in and ending the confusion over the survival of the service once and for all.”

Burnham also predicts the same level of anxiety over the continuity and survival of psychological services for ex-military personnel exists all over the country.

“What is happening in the North West is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a risk to these services that is very real.”

Pennines Mental Health Trust and the Department of Health were contacted for comment by Management in Practice on Saturday 10 November. This article will be updated once a response has been received.