Veterans from across the South East facing a mental health crisis can quickly access dedicated help and support thanks to the introduction of a new High Intensity Service (HIS) that will be rolled out across the South East (SE) of England in phases.

The service, which launches on Monday 23 November, means that former service personnel or their loved ones can call NHS 111 if they need urgent mental health support or in a crisis, say they are a veteran and access rapid support, regardless of length of service. Mental Health practitioners in 111 offer dedicated mental health support and refer into the rest of the HIS team. The pathfinder, that links with existing mental health services for veterans, will be available across Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Berkshire, Oxford and Buckinghamshire.

It is part of a new HIS for veterans and their families across the South East, which aims to step in swiftly when a veteran experiences a mental health crisis or is struggling to engage with services and support them to access the right services to meet their needs during their crisis or after the crisis has subsided. This could be from the Veteran’s Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS), or access to a local mental health team, substance misuse team or Armed Forces Charity.

Following a referral into the service, callers will be contacted within eight hours from a Veteran Peer Support Worker from veterans’ support organisation, All Call Signs. Once accepted into the HIS team a range of support and care coordination will be available from the HIS team, which consists of both clinical and peer workers. At all points throughout the process, right up until the time of discharge, the Peer Support Worker stays in contact with the veteran or family member. In addition, where there are complex social needs around housing, benefits, relationships, employment or other social issues, a Veteran Liaison Support Worker, from Walking With The Wounded, will be able to offer more intensive face to face support.

The pathfinder in the South East, based on the NHS England specification, was informed by the Trauma in Mind report, a year-long study commissioned by Solent NHS Trust and NHS England into the experience of veterans and their families who require intensive healthcare services.

David Noyes, Chief Operating Officer at Solent NHS Trust and retired Naval Officer, said:
“Solent NHS Trust’s links with both serving and retired military personnel and their families is really important to us and we take our obligations through the Armed Forces Covenant extremely seriously. This new High Intensity Service is a fantastic step in the right direction. We already have a strong track record working with veterans across the South of England and our expert team is looking forward to getting this new service up and running alongside our partners across the South East. The NHS has listened to the calls for an outstanding level of timely, responsive and specialist care and we are incredibly proud of the partnership working which will make this service possible.”

The pathfinder will begin with rolling out the dedicated 24/7 phone line across the SE service for veterans in need of urgent mental health support, with the wrap-around care from the rest of the HIS team rolled out across the SE in phases. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is launching first on the 23 November, with Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Berkshire, Oxford and Buckinghamshire following over the coming weeks.

Kate Davies CBE, Director of Armed Forces NHS England and NHS Improvement said “I am proud to see the South East of England offering the new Veterans’ Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS). This marks significant progress in terms of mental health service provision for veterans, focusing on individual care when it is most needed. We have listened to veterans and their families to inform this new service, which includes crisis care and round the clock support to ensure those in need have access to the very best care. Over the last few years, NHS England has launched the Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) and the Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS), which, together with the Veterans’ Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS), now offer a complete mental health care pathway for veterans across England.
I look forward to seeing all regions roll out the HIS over the coming months.”

Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) Operations Director, Fergus Williams, said: “The NHS is a key Partner for WWTW. Although the majority of former military men and women transition successfully to civilian life, a small but significant minority struggle. Those who need support can find their care pathway complex. The launch of the new High Intensity Service in the South East Region with Solent NHS Trust as lead provider will enable ex-military personnel and their families to navigate NHS veterans’ services with ease. Importantly, the High Intensity Service adds value to the already existing NHS Veterans Mental Health services. Partnering with the NHS is fundamental in creating a tailored community support service model which is championed by WWTW. This is a fantastic initiative which will make a significant difference to those that served.”