Department of Health (National) Government boost to Veterans healthcare Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Veterans Minister Derek Twigg, today announced major improvements to the support available to Armed Forces veterans who have developed health problems as a result of their military service. Ministers announced the expansion of NHS priority treatment to all veterans, whose injuries or ill-health are suspected of being due to their service. NHS waiting times are at an all-time low but priority treatment could still be significant for a small number of veterans. Clinicians will determine the allocation of priority treatment based on clinical need. In addition, Ministers announced a new model of community mental health services. This will give Armed Forces veterans access to clinicians with expertise in veterans mental health who will provide assessment and help veterans to obtain suitable treatment. The new model will be piloted at six sites across the UK for two years, after which its effectiveness will be assessed, with the aim being for the programme to roll-out nationwide. Each site will have a trained community veterans' mental health therapist. Veterans will be able to access this service directly or through their GP, ex-Service organisations, the Veterans' Welfare Service, or Social Service departments. Alan Johnson said: "Our service men and women do an outstanding job and we all owe them a debt of gratitude and a duty of care, particularly those who have developed health problems as a result of their military service. "Under long-standing practice, war pensioners have had priority NHS access, but that has not always been fully understood. I want to make sure that everyone understands the current provisions and expand the eligibility for priority treatment in the NHS to veterans who may not yet have claimed a war pension. "I am also pleased to announce new plans to help all veterans whose mental health problems result from military services. "Together with the MoD, we are today launching the first of a number of community mental health pilots specifically for veterans recognise that some will have mental health problems as a result of their work in the Armed Forces, and we need to provide an expert service capable of understanding and responding to the particular problems that can result." Derek Twigg, Veterans Minister, said: "I am delighted to launch the first pilots of this new community mental health service for veterans. The new community health pilots will be staffed by qualified mental healthcare professionals who have an understanding of the military ethos and military operations, and an expertise in veterans' mental health. This will assist them in providing the best standard of care to our veterans." The community mental health model will be NHS led and reflects NHS best practice. The pilot at the Staffordshire & Shropshire Foundation Healthcare Trust is now open. It will be followed in the coming months by pilots in Camden & Islington, Cardiff, Newcastle, St Austell and Scotland; the location for the pilot in Scotland is still to be confirmed.. If these pilots prove successful the model will be rolled out more widely across the UK. Hull PCT has recently extended priority to all veterans whose conditions are suspected of being service-related. This represents best practice and the Health Secretary has decided that it should be extended across the whole of England. The Department of Health will be issuing guidance to remind clinicians about the current priority treatment provisions for war pensioners and to extend the Hull initiative to veterans everywhere in the country. Notes to Editors 1. 170,000 war pensioners at present getting priority NHS treatment. This will extend the arrangements to any of the country's 5 million veterans whose conditions are suspected of being due to service. It is not expected that there are many veterans who will come forward for priority treatment for service-related conditions, but it is hoped that this change will benefit a small number of people whose conditions become problems after discharge and who have not yet applied for a War Pension. The main conditions are likely to be mental health, audiology and orthopaedics.