BRITAIN’S top military medic has denied a gap in the Ministry of Defence’s own mental health care services was causing troops to leave the forces with undiagnosed conditions. Lieutenant General Martin Bricknell, surgeon general of the armed forces, admitted the nation’s military mental health workforce was short of staff.
But during a hearing of the defence committee, the top officer denied the struggle to recruit health care professionals was causing service personnel to slip under the radar when they left the military.
Quizzed on whether people were leaving the forces with serious undiagnosed conditions like post traumatic stress disorder, Lt Gen Bricknell said: ‘Absolutely not. Anybody who has got a major diagnosed health condition will be seen by a mental health professional as they’re being diagnosed.’But the military chief did tell the committee: ‘At the moment were are not fully manned for our mental health workforce both on the regulatory component and civilian component.’ Lt Gen Bricknell said 79 per cent of the total manpower needed to run the mental health service had been achieved.
The remaining void, he said, was filled by staff hired privately from external contractors. The officer’s comments come amid on-going concerns about the support provided for military veterans traumatised by war.
Last month, calls were issued from Portsmouth demanding the government did more to help retired servicemen and women battling mental health issues. It followed the death of Afghanistan special forces hero, Danny Johnston, who served with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – Hampshire’s local army unit – before joining the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the sister unit of the SAS. Mr Johnston had disappeared from his family home in Bognor before his body was found in woodland a few days later near Chichester.
Speaking at the committee hearing, veterans minister Tobias Ellwood said he was concerned about the staffing levels of the MoD’s internal health network and said he was looking at efforts to boost recruitment.