Military charity Help for Heroes has grant funded more than £1 million to the NHS to ensure Veterans suffering from mental health problems will get quicker access to support…

Help for Heroes, which offers support to Veterans and Service Personnel who have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses, is grant funding £517,389 to Veterans’ NHS Wales, £431,109 to Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust and a further £178,000 to The Change Step Project, a Veteran to Veteran peer mentoring scheme.

For Veterans living in Wales, the funding means improved access to effective support and benefit from reduced waiting times for 120 former service personnel with service-related mental health problems. The money will help fund three additional NHS therapists who can treat 40 new cases each year.

Veterans currently living in Swansea, Newport and North Wales are waiting up to 9 months after initial assessment to start weekly psychological therapy. The grant will help ensure they can access specialist support within 4 weeks for an assessment and can start therapy within 26 weeks; 3 months sooner than they had previously been able to.

The funding to Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust will improve access to treatment for Veterans with service-related mental health problems in Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Karen Mead, Head of Psychological Wellbeing at Help for Heroes, said: “Help for Heroes is a charity leading the way in mental health support to members of the Armed Forces community. Many of our veterans need support with mental health problems and it is vitally important they get a fair deal and are offered support in a timely and effective manner.

“Help for Heroes believes that those who put their lives on the line for us deserve a second chance at life. This grant funding will enable us to empower our veterans across the UK to regain their purpose and will ensure we can better meet the needs of veterans suffering with their mental health.”

Kev Bogdan spent eight years in the Welsh Guards, serving in Germany, Canada, the USA, Belize and Northern Ireland. The 49-year-old from Port Talbot left the Army in 1994 and is now in recovery from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a damaging relationship with drugs and alcohol.

“Therapy with Veterans’ NHS Wales was tough – revisiting all those old situations – but I had reached the point by then that I knew I had to do it. If I hadn’t done it, I would probably be dead by now. If I hadn’t seen that therapist, and then had a referral on to Change Step – then I might not have been here today.”

Kev quickly benefitted from the NHS Wales Change Step programme – becoming a volunteer, and later a peer mentor himself: “I had to go through that therapy myself and had to shoulder all of those thoughts and feelings but this new partnership will help people during that transition. It comes back to that trust and that camaraderie.

“There will be someone there who has been through similar things, who you can trust in, and who can help you to deal with things or help you to get things off your chest while you are going through that therapy.”

Change Step director Geraint Jones said: “The partnership between the Change Step peer mentors and Veterans NHS Wales therapists provides a more seamless route for veterans seeking help for mental health problems and PTSD.

“It also ensures veterans are supported by peers who understand the benefits of engagement, especially whilst waiting for treatment or therapy. This collaboration also highlights the benefits of statutory and third sector organisations working to the same aim and utilising their resources to provide a more joined up approach to veterans requiring support.”

Dr Alan Barrett, Consultant Clinical Lead at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust added: “Funding additional clinical posts will boost our services ability to deliver evidenced psychological therapies in a timely manner, to military veterans, who need it most, across greater Manchester and Lancashire.

“We would like to thank the generous donors that have raised funds for Help for Heroes, who we are sure will be pleased to see some funding going to support the mental health needs of those who have served. This partnership ensures joined up working, in particular between the NHS and the charitable sector, to maximize ‘whole person’ care delivery for ex-British armed forces personnel.”