Britain’s biggest veterans’ mental health charity is facing a cash crisis after NHS chiefs withdrew £3.2 million of funding for ex-squaddies with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These cuts force them to reduce vital residential care programmes for hundreds of traumatised troops, unless they can make up the shortfall from public donations. The NHS’s funding accounts for 20 per cent of Combat Stress’s budget. Last night, chief executive Sue Freeth described the situation as an ‘SOS moment’ for the charity.
Hours after The Mail on Sunday contacted NHS England over its decision to withdraw support for Combat Stress, NHS England announced a new mental health initiative for veterans costing exactly the same amount as it has pulled from the charity. But while Combat Stress offers residential care to former troops, they will now be treated as outpatients.
Ms Freeth insisted this service would not help the country’s most vulnerable veterans. She said: ‘Patients with complex cases of PTSD need to be in a caring environment and to be surrounded by people similar to themselves. Yet now NHS England is going to treat them as outpatients. We will continue to offer residential care for as long as we can. But we can no longer use our reserve funds to subsidise the service. We will struggle. This is an SOS moment.’
Dr Jonathan Leach, from NHS England, said: ‘We are investing £3.2 million in a national complex treatment service, launching next month, which will treat more patients over a longer period.’
From The Sandbag Times Editor: Yet another blow for an acutely vital Armed Forces & Veterans supporting charity, which comes barely weeks after stretching their resources to the limit to provide a 24hr helpline. We at The Sandbag Times and The Tommy Atkins Centre in Worcester are devestated by this latest blow to their funding, and are fully committed to supporting Combat Stress and the incredible work they do to help improve the lives of our veteran community.