New Mental Healthcare Programme For Reservists Launched

Reservists will qualify for enhanced support for mental health problems under a new programme announced by the Under Secretary of State Derek Twigg.

The ‘Reserves Mental Health Programme’ (RMHP) is open to all current or former members of the UK Volunteer and Regular Reserves who have been demobilised since 1 January 2003 following deployment overseas and who believe that their deployment as a Reservist may have affected their mental health.

Any Reservist who believes they are eligible should approach their GP who will refer them to the programme. If eligible, they will be offered a mental health assessment at the Reserve Training and Mobilisation Centre (RTMC) at Chilwell, Nottinghamshire. The assessment will be carried out by members of the Defence Medical Services. If they have a mental health condition related to their deployed Reserve service, they will be offered out-patient treatment at one of the MOD’s 15 Departments of Community Mental Health around the UK.

Under Secretary of State for Defence Derek Twigg announced details of the new programme during a visit to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court near Leatherhead Surrey. The DMRC offers world class physical rehabilitation facilities to return injured Service personnel back to fitness and back to service as soon as possible. Mr Twigg said:

“The Reserve Forces continue to make a vital contribution to the ongoing success of military operations. In return, we have a duty of care to them, and this new mental health programme is an important enhancement to the medical services that we provide.”

The MOD announced its intention to provide further mental health support to Reservists in May, when ‘The Lancet’ published research undertaken by the Kings Centre for Military Health Research. The findings showed that there had been no significant increase in ill health amongst Regular members of the Armed Forces who deployed on Operation TELIC, compared to those who did not. The study did however reveal that higher percentages of Reservists who did deploy displayed symptoms of common mental health problems and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) compared to Regulars who deployed or Reservists who did not.

When deployed, Reservists are already entitled to the same medical treatment as Regulars. This includes support from trained mental health staff based in theatre or in the UK. Reservists are also offered pre- and post-deployment briefings to prevent and mitigate against the development of mental health disorders. The new programme will extend out-patient mental healthcare provision by the Defence Medical Services to Reservists who are diagnosed with mental health problems after they have been demobilised. If a case is particularly complex or acute and requires in-patient care, the Defence Medical Services will assist access to NHS treatment. However, we anticipate that any requirement for in-patient admission will be very rare.

The ‘Reserves Mental Health Programme’ will initially run for a period of three years. It will be monitored throughout this period to ensure it meets the needs of demobilised Reservists. At the end of the three years, there will be a formal review to decide whether it should continue, be modified or discontinued.