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NHS launches new service at King's Veterans' Mental Health Conference

NHS England has chosen this year’s Veterans’ Mental Health Conference to announce the launch of a new ‘Op Courage’ service as part of a nine-point NHS plan to support the Armed Forces.

Young military man sat on a sofa looking at a laptop

The annual Veterans’ Mental Health Conference brings together leading academics, researchers, medical professionals, and charities to discuss the key issues in military mental health.

Organised by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) with support from the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), this year’s Veterans’ Mental Health Conference is split into four online seminars each discussing a key aspect of military mental health. The first, looking at ‘Policy and Care’, took place today.

The Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Johnny Mercer, NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, and NHS England Director of Health and Justice and Armed Forces, Kate Davies CBE, outlined how through Op Courage, doctors, nurses, and other NHS staff will work with military charities to provide therapy, rehab services and, in extreme cases, inpatient care to hundreds of former soldiers, sailors and RAF personnel each year. Other commitments laid out in the plan include ensuring access to quality secondary care, reducing healthcare inequalities, helping with the transition to civilian life and increased support for veterans, families, children, and carers.

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.– Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive
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.– Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, and co-director of KCMHR, chaired today’s seminar which also included contributions from Colonel David Richmond CBE, Director of the Office of Veterans Affairs and Dr Charles Winstanley from Scottish Public Pensions Agency and Chair, The Contact Group.

Professor Wessely said “This is our sixth conference, and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of Forces In Mind Trust, so I would like to thank them first and foremost. The conference has been ‘the place to be’ to discuss developments in veterans’ mental health for some time now and today I would like to thank our ‘all-star cast’: Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer; the Chief Executive of the NHS Sir Simon Stephens; and to Kate Davies NHS England Director of Health and Justice and Armed Forces; for launching Op Courage today. They are rightly proud of this, and we are also pleased that this conference has played its part in catalysing some of the changes announced today.”

Op Courage shows the commitment of NHS England to embed service users in everything they do, and this is likewise reflected in our conference.– Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London

Watch the recording from the first online seminar of the Veterans' Mental Health Conference - Policy and Care

The theme of the second seminar is ‘Science and Function’ and will discuss a range of important, and at times debate provoking, scientific topics related to the health of UK military veterans followed by a panel discussion.

The third seminar is titled ‘Veterans, Families & COVID-19’ and will discuss and present novel data on a range of subjects related to families and the impact of COVID on the mental health of UK military veterans followed by a panel discussion.

The fourth, and final, seminar is about ‘Substance Misuse and Gambling’ and will discuss and present novel data on a range of subjects related substance misuse, gambling and addiction, funded by FiMT.

The KCMHR is the leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research. Co-directed by Professor Sir Simon Wessely and Professor Nicola Fear, KCMHR draws on the experience of a multidisciplinary team to produce high level scientific research which has been used to shape government policy towards military personnel.

Contact

For further information please contact Louise Pratt, Head of Communications, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London louise.a.pratt@kcl.ac.uk / +44 7850 919020

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Simon Wessely

Simon Wessely

Professor of Psychological Medicine