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Crisis service celebrates early success
14/02/2017

​A service which takes expert help and peer support directly to veterans who are facing a mental health crisis is proving a success after helping save six lives within its first four months.

The Veteran’s Response Partnership (VSP) launched in October and sees a special response car, manned by experienced volunteers, attending incidents in Norfolk and Waveney which involve veterans with mental health problems.

The service has already had a big impact, helping six people who were about to take their own lives and providing the right support in 98% of cases to keep people in their own home without the need for any further medical intervention.

The news comes after the partnership won the backing of City College Norwich, whose Vehicle Maintenance students have volunteered to service and maintain its response cars to help them hone their practical skills while also giving back to the local community.

The VSP is run by the Walnut Tree Project in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), HMP Norwich, Veterans Norfolk and Outside the Wire, a charity which works with ex-military serving personnel.

It gives individuals the chance to receive peer support, as well assistance to access other services which may be able to help. Wherever necessary, specialist teams from NSFT will also assess the individual and refer them for additional help to support their mental health.

The overall aim is to keep people out of the cells and help them get any further support they may need, such as help with housing or employment issues or drink or drug problems.

The service was the brainchild of army veteran and Walnut Tree Project founder Luke Woodley, who pieced his life back together after developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his experiences in the field.

He said: “We are absolutely delighted that the partnership has already had a significant impact on the lives of scores of veterans from across Norfolk and Waveney.

“Our volunteers spend an average of three hours with the veterans, and are able to provide the support they need in their own homes in 98% of cases. Before we launched the service, these people would instead have relied on health services such as NHS 111 or A&E – by sending our crews out instead, we are helping to reduce pressure elsewhere in the system.

“We also work with people to help educate them about how to manage a crisis better, which leads to many finding they no longer need to call us as we’ve helped them to develop the skills they need to cope at home.

“We are very grateful for all of the support we have received so far, including the generous offer from City College Norwich whose students will now be servicing our cars. This kind of help has been vital in getting this innovative service off the ground, and we are delighted that it is already making a real difference to scores of veterans when they are at their most vulnerable.”

For more information about the support which NSFT offers to veterans, visit www.nsft.nhs.uk/Find-help/Pages/Help-for-veterans.aspx