DEFENCE – POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER – 10 January 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: While we are on the subject of cross-departmental responsibilities, will my right hon. Friend say a word, in particular, about mental health issues, about which I know he is concerned? I believe that I am right in saying that the average time for serious post-traumatic mental health issues to emerge is about 14 years after leaving the service, which inevitably means that Departments other than his own will have to be involved in care and welfare. Does he have any observations to make on that?

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Dr Liam Fox): I would like gently to correct my hon. Friend's statistics: complex post-traumatic stress disorder can emerge up to 14 years afterwards; 14 is not the average figure, and in fact it is often much earlier than that.

However, he is correct that there is a time spectrum involved here, which is why it is essential that we have in place mechanisms to deal not only with those who present acutely, but with those who present at a much later date. We shall be undertaking further work and research to ensure that the mechanisms we put in place to deal with that are fully informed by the objective evidence of the science of the day.

I reiterate what I have said in the House before: we are seeing a modest increase in the number of cases of PTSD. We have seen them related to conflicts as long ago as the Falklands; we have seen them from the Gulf war; and we are bound to see them from Iraq and Afghanistan, and if we are not able to deal with those issues and put in place the mechanisms for dealing with them adequately, we will let down not only those who have put themselves at risk for our country's security, but the country itself. As I said before, I believe that still in this country mental health is too much of a Cinderella service in health care in general. We must not allow that to happen in the armed forces, especially for those who have been willing to sacrifice themselves for us.]