My week was centered on remembrance. From joining a service in Westminster remembering the 22 MPs, including Captain, The Hon. T.C.R. Agar-Robartes for part of this constituency, who lost their lives in military service during the First World War to participating in the wide range of special events at Truro Cathedral, including a spectacular performance of Britten’s War Requiem performed by magnificent, local musicians.
Laying wreaths of poppies during Remembrance Services in my constituency is always an honour and privilege, remembering the bravery and sacrifice of our local armed services personnel and their families past and present. Having spent time with our armed services, participating in the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme and championing Falmouth as our nation’s fifth Naval Port, I know that for the vast majority of those serving in the Armed Forces the experience is a positive one.
I also know that for some, who have been physically or mentally impacted, we are duty-bound to honour their dedication and commitment by ensuring that they continue to receive the very best possible health care when they return to civilian life. The Armed Forces Covenant places a responsibility on us all to ensure that those who serve in the Armed Forces, whether Regular or Reserve, those who have served in the past, and their families, should not face any disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services. I believe special consideration is appropriate, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved.
We have achieved a great deal over the past four years in providing services to those who have served their country. I am pleased that at the weekend the Government announced what I had been calling for on behalf of local war widows. I am particularly concerned that the NHS is enabled to play its essential role in delivering the Covenant. Over £22m of funding has been provided that has enabled amongst other things: nine veterans’ prosthetic centres; ten veterans mental health teams; a 24-hour veterans mental health helpline; Big White Wall online mental health counselling service for the Armed Forces Community; an e-learning package for GPs on Armed Forces, veterans and service families health; and a veterans information service, where veterans are contacted a year after discharge with information to help them with health and other issues.
In addition, up to £18m is being provided through NHS specialist commissioning arrangements to charity Combat Stress to provide acute PTSD services to veterans. The LIBOR banking funds are also being used to contribute directly to the health and wellbeing of veterans and their families.
I know that more can be done and the centenary of the First World War that prompted me to reread the poems of soldier poets, brings this into sharp focus. I can assure you that we will continue to work hard to deliver the best possible health services for our Armed Forces, reservists, veterans and their families.