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Veterans’ charity Combat Stress stops new referrals over funding crisis

British soldiers in Helmand Image copyright PA

A leading mental health charity for military veterans says it will not be able to take any new cases in England and Wales, because of a funding crisis.

Combat Stress said its income has fallen from £16m to £10m in the current financial year partly due to cuts in NHS funding support.

The charity had been receiving around 2,000 referrals for treatment a year.

The NHS said new specialist services for ex-soldiers have helped more than 10,000 people to date.

But veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer said he will hold an “urgent meeting” over Combat Stress’ problems.

The charity said that, until 2018, it was receiving more than £3m a year from NHS England.

But it said 90% of its income is now dependent on public donations.

The charity still receives more than £1m from NHS Scotland and it will continue to take on new cases there and in Northern Ireland.

‘Great sadness’

Combat Stress – which describes itself as the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health – said its decision not to take on any new referrals in England and Wales has been taken “with great sadness”.

It said it is now faced with scaling back its services and workforce and is consulting with staff about its proposals.

All new referrals will now be redirected to the NHS, which Combat Stress said “needs to demonstrate” it can deal with the additional demands.

Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, has questioned whether NHS England will be able to cope.

She told the BBC: “I don’t believe the NHS can pick this up. That is why we exist.”

Ms Freeth said 80% of veterans who come to her organisation have either used the NHS and have not had their needs met, or have felt unable to use NHS services.

A number of groups and charities have warned of a spike in the number of veterans taking their own lives.

Earlier this month the body of a former soldier, Jamie Davis, was found after he went missing.

His wife Alicia has criticised the “lack of intervention” to help him with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Media captionArmy veteran Jamie Davis was found dead six days ago in Totton, Hampshire.

Mr Davis’ former commanding officer in Afghanistan has also expressed his concern.

Retired Major Richard Streatfield served in Sangin in 2010 and said Mr Davis was the fourth soldier under his command to have died at home in “similar tragic circumstances”.

He said the British Army and the government has a duty to dedicate time and resources to those who have been exposed to trauma.

An NHS statement said its “number one priority is providing the best care for veterans”.

The statement added that, after listening to veterans and following a competitive process, “the NHS has rolled out new specialist services to every part of the country which have seen over 10,000 people to date and are funded by more than £10m every year.”

You can find information and support on mental health from the BBC Action Line here.


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