Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services
Following Business Questions on 30 January I am providing this statement in relation to the closure of the armed forces veteran residential treatment facility at Audley Court and information on the alternative provision available in Wales.
Audley Court Centre in Newport, Shropshire, is run by the charity Combat Stress. The Charity has decided it will no longer provide its specialist residential intensive treatment programme to veterans suffering mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from the Centre, which in 2016 provided support to eight veterans from Wales. Instead Audley Court will act as a hub for co-ordinating a number of non-residential programmes and outpatient services.
This is a decision Combat Stress has made based on its new five year strategy to transform its services, developed in consultation with employees and veterans. Combat Stress will continue to provide specialist residential programmes in Ayrshire and Surrey. The Welsh Government previously provided Combat Stress with £42,000 grant funding between 2012-2015. The Charity has chosen not to submit any subsequent applications for further funding. The Welsh Government has not been party to the Audley Court decision which is an internal matter for the Charity.
The Welsh Government has previously considered the potential for a dedicated Welsh veterans’ residential facility and in 2013 we commissioned an independent report into the case for such a facility. The findings, which were supported by a range of organisations working with veterans, concluded that the necessary demand and need to sustain such a facility could not be made out and that community based services were more appropriate.
This supports NICE guidelines which are clear that the evidence base suggests that trauma focused psychological therapy for PTSD should be provided in the community, close to the individual’s home.
While the vast majority of mental health problems can be assessed, treated and managed within general secondary mental health services, Veterans’ NHS Wales (VNHSW) provides additional support and care specifically for veterans, delivered by the NHS with Welsh Government funding of £685,000 annually, including an additional £100,000 investment announced in November 2017. This was the first national evidence based service for veterans in the UK.
Each health board has appointed experienced mental health clinicians with an interest in, or experience of, military health problems, as Veterans Therapists who offer a range of NICE approved evidence based psychological therapies for a range of mental health problems. The service has also established an integrated care pathway, joining up statutory and non-statutory sectors, including Combat Stress, and acting as a single point of referral. This enables VNHSW to signpost veterans and their families to other support they may require, such as peer support, mentoring and substance misuse services. Since its launch in April 2010 to January 2018 VNHSW has supported over 3000 veterans.
We all owe our veterans a debt of gratitude and a duty of care, particularly when they develop health problems as a result of their military service. That is why Taking Wales Forward, our five-year strategic plan setting out what we want to deliver over the course of 2016 to 2021, includes a specific commitment to meet the healthcare needs of our veterans. Furthermore, meeting the mental health needs of all our citizens is a priority area in the national strategy - Prosperity for All.