The Ministry of Defence has responded to concerns about the number of personnel fit for overseas deployment by stating it has “enough people to perform their operational requirements”. As many as 7,200 troops are not currently medically fit enough to be sent abroad, a Freedom of Information request by the Times has revealed. A further 9,910 service personnel are exempted from certain tasks when out on exercises or operations for medical reasons.
A spokesperson for the MOD said:
“Individuals are medically downgraded for a wide variety of reasons, most of which are minor health concerns that don’t prevent personnel from fulfilling their core duties.
“The Armed Forces have enough people to perform their operational requirements to keep Britain safe.”
Troops are divided into three categories; those who are fit for duty without any employment limitations are classed as Medically Fully Deployable (MFD). Medically Limited Deployable (MLD) service personnel are those with only minor ailments, such as sports injuries or ingrown toenails.
Fit for Deployment
This group is deemed in general fit for deployment with only minor limitations on what duties they may perform. A third category, Medically Not Deployable (MND), includes those personnel who are pregnant or have more serious conditions. Other troops that may not be deployed include those who are under the age of 18 and those who have not completed the appropriate training.
A special unit to protect or retrieve ancient treasures is being formed by the British Army. The 15-strong Cultural Property Protection Unit will be made up of reservists from all three services with what the Royal Navy say have “a flair for Indiana Jones-style adventure”. The need for such a specialist unit is largely due to so-called Islamic State, which has destroyed numerous historic sites in the Middle East, including Iraq’s Nimrud palace, mosques in Mosul and certain Roman ruins in Palmyra.
The unit will be tasked with retrieving works stolen by terrorists, investigations into looting, the protection of ancient objects and reporting on sites of interest to the British military. Restricting the flow of money to terrorist organisations will also be a key objective. “Looting and selling antiquities has been proven as a fund-raising method for terrorist groups,” said the unit’s commander – and only current member – Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick, who served in the Gulf War before becoming an arts dealer. “Part of our job is about preventing ‘threat finance’ – you have an adversary extracting cultural property from the region you are operating in and then, in effect, sending it back at you in the form of bombs and bullets.”
People with backgrounds as curators, art specialists, archaeologists and investigators are being urged to consider signing up. “Our staff could find themselves out on an exercise doing operational planning or sitting at a border, checking vehicles for stolen artefacts,” said Lt Col Purbrick. “There’s a strong possibility we’ll be working with allies such as the French out in somewhere like Mali where they are trying to prevent antiquities being smuggled out of the country.” He has identified a historic building inspector from the Royal Navy Reserve and an Arabic-speaking archaeologist in the Army reserve as possible new recruits. “I’m looking for experts in art, archaeology and art crime investigation, leaders in their field who are able to deploy on operations down to the tactical level,” he added.
The next census will collect information on Armed Forces’ veterans for the first time, it has been announced. Details about how the 2021 census will be run have been set out in a white paper on Friday. A new question will be introduced in the digital-first census with the aim to identify those people, aged 16 and over, who are serving or have ever served in the military. The data collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will be used to support the Armed Forces Covenant, ensuring specific public services can be implemented where they are needed.
The entente between Britain and France may not be quite as cordiale as it used to be, but the 2018 centenary of the end of the First World War has inspired a unique cross-Channel initiative to commemorate the western front that once divided Europe to horrific effect. A two-year campaign to create a 450-mile memorial pathway that would trace the front lines of some of the bloodiest battles of the Great War has begun to attract wider European support, with French and Belgian officials signalling their interest in the project.
A new charity, the Western Front Way, has for formal approval by European governments for a tree-lined via sacra (sacred path) that would stretch from the Belgian coast at Nieuwpoort, between Dunkirk and Ostend, to the Swiss border at Pfetterhouse, 25 miles west of Basel. Along the way it would pass the battlefields of Ypres, Arras and Verdun and many other museums, cemeteries and gardens dedicated to the conflict in which nearly 20m people died.
Led by Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, and Jean-Paul Mulot, a former managing editor of the Paris-based Le Figaro newspaper, the charity hopes to fulfil the vision of Alexander Douglas Gillespie, a young British Army officer who was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915. In a letter to his former headmaster at Winchester College, Gillespie wrote shortly before he died that when peace came he would like to send “every man, woman and child in western Europe” on a pilgrimage along the front lines “so they might think and learn about what war means from the silent witnesses on either side”. He proposed “one long avenue . . . from the Vosges to the sea. I would make a fine broad road in the ‘no man’s land’ between the lines, with paths for pilgrims on foot and plant trees for shade and fruit”.
Seldon led a walk along sections of the proposed route in the summer of 2016, attracting support from several British celebrities, including the actors Dominic West, Cherie Lunghi and Elizabeth Hurley. The project’s main challenge was to try to arouse enthusiasm across the Channel at a time when any British initiative was being viewed — for the most part sourly — through a Brexit lens. “One of our main concerns was that it not be just an Anglo project, in which case it would probably never happen,” said Rory Forsyth, 32, chief executive of the charity and who also runs an events company.
After Mulot became the project’s “torchbearer in France”, there were talks with the Belgian ambassador in Britain. The charity also met a Flanders representative before Christmas. It has put out feelers to German officials as well. “We didn’t want to make a lot of noise without Belgian and French support,” Forsyth said. “But we have obviously got to make the most of the 100th anniversary.” In the short term the group hopes to focus on existing pathways that can be easily marked as part of the project and gradually linked up. “The initial costs are quite light and the markers we put up and the trees we plant could be sponsored,” said Forsyth, who noted that the project was the “ultimate counter” to any Brexit-related animosity. “It’s quite a harmonious thing,” he said. “We are hoping to build paths, not walls.”
Reproduced from The Times
The last 15 years have seen increased survivability of military casualties. Many will need physical and mental healthcare support for the rest of their lives. There is pressure on the NHS to provide cohesive and specialised veteran care. However, veterans and healthcare professionals are sometimes unclear what veterans are entitled to and what additional NHS services are available. This article outlines what is required, what the expectations are and what the NHS provides.
Armed Forces Covenant / NHS Constitution
These critical policies stress that all should not be disadvantaged from accessing appropriate health services. The former states that veterans are entitled to ‘priority treatment for any health condition so long as it relates to their time in service and is subject to the clinical needs of others’. The challenge for those delivering healthcare is that these statements are open to interpretation. What is service related? What is priority care? Should a wounded veteran receive care ahead of an injured fireman or nurse? Managing expectations on all sides is vital. Visit here for more information.
What veterans can expect
There is a wide spectrum of expectations from veterans, ranging from a reluctance to be identified as veterans, to the idea that veteran status propels them to the front of the queue. It’s very important that veterans understand what the NHS can/should do for them. One of the commonest issues is that veterans are only entitled to veteran specialist care for service related injuries or illnesses – being a veteran, per se, is not enough.
What is being done
Though many organisations are involved in veteran-related services, the NHS is the only health body that is legally required to do so. For many years there was no special veteran care pathway through the NHS – one that complements all NHS access. Over the last few years great efforts have been made to create veteran-specific pathways and services and increase awareness of veteran issues among NHS staff.
GPs need to be aware of their registered veterans and what is available for them. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Midland Faculty and NHS England have launched a pilot to encourage GP practices to become ‘veteran friendly’ accredited. This helps practices to better identify and treat veterans, ensuring they get access to dedicated care if appropriate. To date, over 100 practices have signed up, with plans for a national roll-out.
In addition, when registering into the NHS from Defence Medical Services, the registration form asks the individual and GP to identify whether the patient (or their family) have ever served. This should lead to better identification. Finally, the RCGP has veteran healthcare in the professional examination for GP qualification, ensuring all future GPs are veteran aware.
Veterans’ mental health has been a huge focus for improvement and over the last few years has seen the launch of the Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) and the Complex Treatment Service (CTS). The TILs provides early access to mental health care and is aimed at personnel leaving the military and veterans with lower levels of mental health difficulties.
The CTS deals with more complex cases, including PTSD and co-morbidities and includes those who have not improved with previous treatment. Both can provide help with housing, finances, employment and alcohol misuse, as well as support for families coping with the consequences.
Since April 2017, approximately 4,700 patients have been referred to the TILS and CTS. Visit the NHS website for more information.
The Veterans Trauma Network (VTN), the first clinical pathway for service attributable veterans’ physical healthcare, consists of 10 regional trauma centres and five trusts that undertake specific veteran care and co-ordinate all service-related physical health veteran GP referrals. The centres include seconded military clinical professionals who work closely with military charities and the TILS and CTS to ensure holistic care is provided.
The VTN was and continues to be informed by veterans who can access the service via GP referral, as explained on the NHS website.
Whilst these specialised services do not absolve the responsibility of mainstream services to identify the particular needs of veterans and to seek to treat them to ensure ‘no disadvantage’, the NHS is making significant progress to create an integrated veteran pathway. It is vital that this is done with sensitivity to all NHS users.
Learning from military cohorts will always inform civilian practice – especially around blast injury and trauma. The NHS is designed to be able to deal with both basic and the most complex health needs. It is therefore only right that veteran care is anchored in the NHS, as it is the NHS that kept military casualties alive in all wars since 1947. The current initiatives aim to create a veteran-aware and sensitive healthcare system that will educate, deliver and endure.
HEALTH bodies, military charities and politicians united in a quest to find a ‘silver bullet’ to strike at the heart of Britain’s veteran suicide crisis. Organisations were able to vent their frustrations at the current ‘gaps’ in support for ex-forces personnel to Labour’s shadow minister for veterans, reserves and personnel, Gerald Jones.
They met with the Welsh MP after his visit to Portsmouth’s naval base, during an hour-long summit at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Causes said more funding needed to be provided to charities and NHS services to help veterans in crisis. But they also highlighted the need for a more co-ordinated approach to be taken between the plethora of forces charities and emergency services. Retired soldier Dan Arnold is the co-founder of Portsmouth-based cause All Call Signs and was among the groups at the meeting.
Set up in the wake of the suicide of special forces hero Danny Johnston, the organisation aims to support veterans in dire need or to rally search groups to find those missing and thought to be suicidal. He said: ‘There is a massive gap in service delivery at the point where someone is in complete crisis and feeling suicidal.‘There isn’t a true crisis intervention at the point when they’re in the direst of needs – at that point, there’s nothing.’ Other people at the session included the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, Veterans Outreach Support (VOS), and Solent NHS Trust among others. Matthew Hall, of Solent NHS Trust, said medical services were stretched dealing with traumatised veterans, who often faced complex needs. He urged Mr Jones to fight to secure a ‘ring-fenced funding pot’ for NHS services supporting veterans in crisis.
Mr Jones said the government’s newly-launched veterans strategy had some ‘good ideas’ in improving the situation. But he said more was still needed, adding: ‘Coordination and collaboration don’t cost anything but if you want to raise awareness then all of that takes funding. ‘And when local authorities and public bodies have been significantly cash-strapped over the last seven or eight years, then that has a knock-on effect. ‘There is now a real challenge to provide even basic services because of eight years of austerity. That’s what we need to address.’ As previously revealed by The News, Britain has no official records of the number of veterans who take their own lives.
The revelation sparked outrage, with government bowing to public pressure and vowing to arrange for veteran suicide rates to be formally documented. Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, organised the meeting and said he would be scrutinising the new veterans strategy. ‘I want to make sure the government don’t just have warm words but that they have deeds as well,’ he said. ‘It was good today to learn about some of the good work going on in Portsmouth, what the challenges are and what I can do as an MP that cares for our armed forces and veterans to make sure they get a better service when they leave the military.’
Stephen James, co-founder of All Call signs, felt reassured by the MPs comments and said: ‘We covered a lot of ground in a short time which is a testament to the benefits of getting everyone under the same roof. ‘Collaboration was a key theme of the meeting, we now have to look at how we make that a long-term reality that benefits veterans and service personnel in need.’ Mr Jones added he would ‘take back’ all the good ideas from Portsmouth and said: ‘Discussions like this are incredibly useful. ‘We could all do well to listen to the experiences of the people at the grassroots, at the coalface. Nobody knows better about what needs to change than the people who provide those services at the grassroots level. ‘We’ve had a great example of that here this afternoon.’
Tobia Ellwood shared the initiative as he opened a debate on the Armed Forces Covenant, intended to protect veterans who have left the armed forces. Mr Ellwood told MPs the Ministry of Defence and Ministry for Housing had signed up to a statutory duty for commanding officers to refer vulnerable individuals to councils for housing.
“This is so important,” he said.
“It means we should not see people who might become homeless leaving the armed forces with nowhere to go because their plight will be flagged up.”
The Minister also focused on suicide prevention, announcing a new working group had been set up to investigate how best to tackle the problem.
He said: “We have set up a new suicide prevention working group to urgently look at the cases of such distress in serving personnel.
“It will look at how to address the issues affecting those in such distress now and how to prevent others feeling the same way.”
He added: “It will look at the triggers in service to ensure all future veterans have the resilience they need while serving and after they leave.” Mr Ellwood further warned that the military was not the sole cause of suicide, saying there were usually other complex underlying issues. He said: “Suicide is the most tragic symptom usually of many other issues such as mental health or family breakdown, debt, unemployment or a myriad of other problems.
“It’s inaccurate, disrespectful and trivialising to link suicide solely to military service.
“But I do say that in some cases military service plays a role and we need to better understand the causes so we can try to prevent further suicides in future.”
However, he confirmed a Veterans Board had been introduced to enable ministers to “hold to account those other departments that need to upgrade their support for both veterans, veterans’ families and the Armed Forces as well”, including on issues of homelessness and suicide. He added: “It is absolutely important we do not shy away, whether it is perceived or otherwise, from our responsibility to help those veterans who may feel that they have gone into a very, very dark place themselves.”
The mum-of-three, from Northampton, took 12 painstaking weeks to create 637 poignant pencil drawings of those who have died since 2000. She worked from a list from the Ministry of Defence and contacted the families of those killed to complete the project. Sam said: “I did it because these soldiers needed to be remembered.
“I work in a school and I speak to student’s every day and you can see they aren’t wearing the poppy ahead of Remembrance Day. “They just see war as a collection of old grey images, not connected with reality. “I wanted to do something to help them appreciate the sacrifices made by service personnel both past and present. “This is the first time anyone has done anything like this and it’s to show these people were loved and their memories are perpetuated – it’s important to remember them.
“And it’s not just to honour those who have died, it’s to help their family and friends, those that came back with PTSD can see that their comrades are honoured”. “It was all self-funded and many of the families of those that died sent me pictures that were different to those released by the Ministry of Defence.
“When a soldier died the family used to only get 24 hours to provide a statement and a picture, otherwise, a picture that the army had would be used. “The reason that the portraits can be so powerful is that it is the families themselves that have had time to provide the pictures after reflection. “Members of the families would say things like ‘you have caught his eyes’.
“Sometimes the family would send three, four or five pictures so I ended drawing well over 500 sketches and I still had my full-time teaching job to do as well. “I don’t know how I managed to get through it but I started posting the first four pictures on Facebook and I did not think that anyone would be interested. “Then the family of Fusilier Samuel Flint-Broughton got in touch to say he would have been 25 the week I drew it – they put it into a memory box on his birthday for his mother. “At one point I was drawing 27 pictures a day. It was overwhelming to do it over the 12 weeks but I managed to complete it and I’m proud of the finished results.”
Sam’s drawings formed part of a military art exhibition and have now been compiled into two books with the proceeds going to the Royal British Legion.
LETTER FROM TERRY WHITTLES, NATIONAL CHAIRMAN AND CHARLES BYRNE, DIRECTOR GENERAL
Attached you will ﬁnd the new pack of information that we have put together to support the forthcoming process of nomination and election for key roles on the Board of Trustees. This replaces the traditional Circulars which have been sent out each year.We hope this provides all of the information and supporting documents that Voting Branches will need to submit nominations for all the elections which are due to takeplace prior to Annual Conference 2019.It also gives a lot more background about the responsibilities and requirements of these positions. The Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for governing The Royal British Legion and ensuring that it is effectively run. All Trustees are equally responsible in law for the Board’s actions and decisions.Trustees are therefore key leadership roles and the forthcoming elections are for the following:National ChairmanThe person elected will serve a three year term of ofﬁce. Previous holders of this ofﬁce may not bere-elected to any position on the Board of Trustees.National Vice-ChairmanThe person elected will serve a three year term of ofﬁce. Previous holders of this ofﬁce may not be re-electedto the ofﬁce of National Vice-Chairman or as a Trustee but may stand for election as National Chairman.Trustees (3 positions)Those elected will serve a three year term. Elected Trustees may serve no more than three full and onepartial term. Those who have previously been elected as Trustees may stand for election as NationalChairman or National Vice-Chairman For the complete details follow this link.
Please note:- If any members of St James’s Branch are interested in standing for any of the positions they should submit their application no later than 31 Oct 18 in order that a vote of all the branch members can be conducted in time for the AGM.
All applications should be sent to the Branch Secretary at StJames.Secretary@RBL.Community and that all applications will be acknowledged.
The guide, jointly launched by Samaritans and the Ministry of Defence, gives advice on how to identify signs that someone may be having difficulties, suggests ways of offering support and gives information on where help can be found.
All military personnel and reserves, some 200,000 people, will have access to either a hard copy or digital version of the booklet. The guide builds on the range of support already available to service personnel who are struggling with their mental health, including access to specialist mental health medical care, training and education on good mental fitness and the Combat Stress 24-hour Mental Health Helpline.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
Mental health issues can affect anyone and I want to ensure no one in our military suffers in silence. It is vital that service personnel know where to turn to in times of crisis, and this guide will raise awareness of the support available.
By helping our people to spot the early signs that someone may be struggling, we give them the best chance of a full recovery.
Specifically designed to promote peer support amongst those serving, the guide champions “looking after your mates”, and covers:
- Identifying someone struggling to cope with mental health issues
- Understanding the complexity of suicide
- Knowing when to intervene, support and report
- Where to get further support, including the Samaritans service, whose volunteers are available any time, via phone and email or in person at the charity’s 201 branches, and the recently launched Combat Stress 24/7 Military Mental Health Helpline
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:
While military mental health continues to be slightly better than the general population, we’re committed to ensuring that those who need help are able to get the support they need.
This guide, alongside our extra investment in mental health care and the 24-hour Mental Health Helpline, will be invaluable in helping our people to help each other.
Samaritans and the MOD have announced several joint initiatives to offer training and support to serving personnel, veterans and their families who are struggling with mental health issues. The Samaritans programme has been funded by £3.5m from LIBOR, and the guide is the latest part of this programme. A separate booklet is set to be launched for veterans, and the wider military community. The next stage of the project will include the launch of other peer support tools, specially designed training courses for military personnel and a confidential webchat service. Training for Samaritans volunteers on how address mental health in a military environment will also be introduced.
Samaritans CEO, Ruth Sutherland, said:
Samaritans is committed to bringing the expertise we have gained in training people to provide peer support to the military, in order to prevent suicides. This is the first step in a journey to provide a variety of support for serving personnel, veterans, reservists and their families.
The booklet will also help personnel spot signs that colleagues may be having suicidal thoughts and provides information on how such a situation should be approached, and where support is available.
The number of military personnel who take their lives continues to be below rates for the general population, with the military rate of suicide being 8 per 100,000, in 2017, compared to 18 per 100,000 in the general population in 2016. The Ministry of Defence is now spending £220 million over the next decade to improve mental health services for serving personnel. In February of this year, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced the establishment of a 24-Hour Mental Health Helpline for serving personnel and their families, funded by the MOD and run by the charity Combat Stress. The MOD’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy is designed to encourage all members of the armed forces to recognise the importance of mental fitness and encourages individuals to seek support if they are struggling with their mental health.