More veterans' post traumatic stress support in Wales

Soldier It is estimated 4% of service veterans will suffer some kind of mental health crisis

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There is to be more help for veterans amid concerns over waiting time variations for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment across the Welsh NHS.

Waits range from two weeks to six months, Sunday Politics Wales found.

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said more must be done to avoid future problems, including more veterans taking their own lives.

A specialist veterans' mental health service will re-launch on Thursday.

Veterans' NHS Wales treats ex-service personnel with mental health problems including (PTSD), receiving £485,000 funding a year.

Lead clinician Dr Neil Kitchiner said veterans with symptoms of PTSD must get help quickly.

"If someone doesn't present when they're in service to the psychiatric team then they often leave and several years down the road they present with problems and symptoms which could have been dealt with much sooner," he says.

"They may have fallen out of love several times, they may have gone to prison, they may have been homeless and they may have battled with alcohol and drugs."

Sunday Politics Wales asked local Veterans' NHS Wales services for current waiting times from first assessment to beginning treatment.

Of those who responded, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board service reported waits of two to three weeks while Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said they were about 26 weeks.

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CASE STUDY

Maldwyn Jones Former veteran Maldwyn Jones had to deal with PTSD

Maldwyn Jones served nearly 18 years in the Army, including the Falklands War in 1982 with the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. He also served in Northern Ireland, Belize and Cyprus. A former police officer, he is now a publican.

"Coming out of the Army is difficult. In the armed forces a lot of things are done for you. The way of life and camaraderie is a real different outlook on life.

"With PTSD I think I recognised quite early I was suffering and I got chatting to a Army psychiatric nurse over lunch and talked about a third party - but it was me - and he said the symptoms sounded like PTSD. I got a bit of good advice. I self-diagnosed and self-dealt with it.

"The first time I talked about the event was 16 years after and the lid came off."

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Some of an extra £650,000 to improve access to psychological therapies for people with mental health problems is to fund treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD, the Welsh government has said.

Further details are expected this week.

Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar, chair of the cross-party group on the armed forces, welcomed the extra resources.

But he said: "We need to make sure that when clinicians come across a veteran with PTSD in particular, that they're able to strike while the iron is hot and provide a timely service".

"If we don't have that then unfortunately we are going to see more veterans turning up in the criminal justice system, we're going to see more family breakdown and we're going to see - unfortunately - more veterans taking their own lives."

Sunday Politics Wales, BBC One Wales, 1100 BST on 22 June.

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