Page last updated at 06:56 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Funding will help veterans with mental health issues

A soldier in Afghanistan
A pilot scheme to help veterans with mental health issues is to be extended

A pilot project to support armed services personnel experiencing mental health problems is to be extended.

The service to access expert help, which was trialled in the Cardiff and Vale and Cwm Taf health board areas, will now be rolled out across Wales.

Welsh Assembly Government funding of £485,000 a year, to start in April, has been announced by the health minister.

Veteran Simon Weston welcomed the money but said work was needed to overcome "sketchy and patchy" information.

The investment will provide servicemen and women with access to clinicians with expertise in veterans' mental health, who will assess their needs and provide suitable treatment.

Debt of gratitude

The £135,000 two-year pilot based at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and Ministry of Defence.

The new all-Wales service, which will be funded fully by the assembly government, will also inform veterans and carers of other services and support that they are entitled to.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said: "I am determined to improve the care for people who have experienced health problems as a result of their military service. We owe them a debt of gratitude and have a duty of care to them.

"I understand that people who have been supported by this pilot project... have found it extremely beneficial.

Strengthening care

"That is why I am acting quickly to fund the expansion of this service to maximise the benefits for individuals and their families across Wales.

Simon Weston
Older veterans in particular have suffered in silence
Falklands veteran Simon Weston

"In addition, I am bringing together senior staff from the NHS, assembly government and Ministry of Defence at a workshop to look at how we can further strengthen care and support for members of the armed services and veterans."

Falklands veteran Simon Weston welcomed the investment but said he would like to see a greater partnership with experts.

"Any money is a welcome boost but it is not so much that help isn't there, but that information is sketchy and patchy," he said.

Prison population

"Veterans are not getting the right level of support. Older veterans in particular have suffered in silence.

"They have no packages or information about mental health charities.

"Eleven percent of the prison population are veterans. This investment doesn't get anywhere near the cost of keeping them in prison.

"I am not knocking the NHS but I would like to see a partnership with people with expertise.

"There is an organisation called Talking 2 Minds, which has had huge success and their costs are minimal."

Mr Weston said veterans' mental health was a "particular problem" in Wales due to the tradition of people in Wales joining the armed forces.

"Lots of areas of Wales have contributed huge amounts of men and women to the armed services so there would be a lot of Welsh people who would have issues," he said.

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