More help needed for mentally ill war veterans

Defence Secretary Des Browne has responded to claims of neglect towards British troops wounded in conflict and suffering mental health problems by promising the best possible treatment for returning veterans.

According to Ministry of Defence figures, more than 2,100 troops returning from Iraq between 2003 and 2006 have suffered psychiatric problems.

But there have been complaints from service personnel and their families about long waiting lists for treatment and not enough support while they wait to be seen.

Mr Browne, pledging to tackle the problem, said: “Where there are cases that fall short of the very high standards that I and others demand, we need to address there and I will address them – they are unacceptable.”

Services mental health charity Combat Stress, which runs three treatment centres for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and currently has 160 Iraq veterans on its books, warned it was in danger of being overwhelmed.

Serving military personnel, including reservists, can normally get treatment through the defence medical services.

But after they leave the forces, they must use the NHS where it can take up to 18 months to get a first appointment, according to Combat Stress,