The Contact Group

The UK collaboration for military mental health policy, treatment and research

Contact Armed Forces

The UK collaboration for military mental health policy, treatment and research

Welcome to the Contact Group quarterly newsletter for Autumn 2020. The aim of the newsletter is to provide an update on Contact activities, as well as relevant external events, research and funding opportunities. It is circulated to Contact members, associates, research associates, partners and other relevant contacts. Please feel free to share it with colleagues, partner organisations and other contacts. If you would like to be added to the distribution list or if you have feedback or relevant content that you would like considered for inclusion in future newsletters, please email Anna Owen, Contact Project Officer: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk

About the Contact Group

Contact is the UK collaboration for military mental health treatment, policy and research. It also acts as the mental health cluster for Cobseo. Membership of the group and participation by members in Contact’s collaborative work is voluntary.

Core members of the group are: Cobseo, Combat Stress, Help for Heroes, King’s College London, Ministry of Defence, the NHS in England, Scotland (Scottish Veterans Care Network) and Wales (Veterans NHS Wales), Northern Ireland Veterans’ Support Office, Royal British Legion, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Togetherall and Walking With the Wounded.

Contact associates currently include: Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS), Icarus, RAF Benevolent Fund, Scottish Veterans Residences, SSAFA, The Poppy Factory, The Ripple Pond and Veterans Scotland. Contact Associate membership is currently open to Cobseo members and is free of charge. If your organisation would like to join, please email Anna Owen for more details: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk

Contact research associates currently include: Scottish Veterans Health Research Group at Glasgow University, Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans at University of Chester, Stress, Trauma and Related Conditions (STARC) research lab at Queen’s University Belfast, Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research at Anglia Ruskin University, FiMT Research Centre at Anglia Ruskin University, Traumatic Stress Research Group at Cardiff University, Northern Hub for Veteran and Military Families’ Research at Northumbria University, Centre for Mental Health and Safety at University of Manchester, Mental Health Research Group at Edinburgh Napier University, Experimental Psychopathology Lab at Swansea University, Blind Veterans UK, Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, Centre for Mental Health, Centre for Veterans’ Health at King Edward VII’s Hospital and the Royal College of GPs.

Contact partners (who engage with Contact work and/or provide funding) currently include: Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA), Veterans Foundation, Veterans Gateway and Heads Together.

Contact Group – Priority workstreams

Contact currently has several priority areas of focus, with work in each overseen by a representative of a Contact core member as Executive Lead. Recent progress in each of these areas is included below. Current priority work areas are:

  • Common assessment
  • Case management (CM)
  • Quality and accreditation
  • Data dashboard
  • Research
  • Communications
  • Additional work related to Covid-19

Common Assessment

  • The aim of this priority area is to work towards a common assessment framework (CAF) or form for the capture of service user information, including medical and service histories, so that it does not have to be repeated multiple times by users when accessing services from different providers. Work has continued via the Contact sub-group for this area, comprising representatives from NHS England and Contact member charities.
  • The group has developed a plan and timeline for roll-out of the CAF they have designed. NHSE renewal of contracts as they come through will allow for piloting of the CAF by NHS providers and plans to implement a fully integrated VMH service in future as a key priority (with a timeline yet to be agreed – further details will be shared by NHSE in the new year) will be the point at which the CAF will be used by both NHS and charity providers. Organisations are, however, welcome and will be encouraged to start using it before then.
  • As part of the development process, Help for Heroes tested the practicalities of using the CAF and found that it is important to link its use to how the service provision is delivered. It is also important to ensure that its completion is not too time consuming or challenging. In working practice, some components can be split between different assessments, e.g. generic and clinical. Overall, it was found to be very user-friendly for beneficiaries and to provide good capability for comparing data between services. If your organisation is interested in learning more about the CAF and/or using it in future, please contact Anna Owen: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk

Case Management (CM)

  • The joint Cobseo/Contact working group on CM comprising representatives from Cobseo, selected Contact members and other organisations active in CM has met twice since its inception with a range of senior representatives in attendance. A draft report and recommendations was produced by the group which Contact members were consulted on. The next step is for a wider process of consultation to take place.
  • A draft specification for the related, envisaged new I.T. system for linking veterans’ health and welfare information has also been produced and presented to Contact members, as well as a proposal for a scoping study for the initial, exploratory stage of the project. This will involve sourcing expert I.T. assistance in framing the brief to respective providers and oversight of the formal invitation to quote, including reporting back on the cost estimates/outline solutions. Funding for this is currently being sought from OVA who have offered a positive initial response including requesting clarification on three areas which has been provided and we await further feedback.
  • Contact will host a second CM workshop in 2021, the aim of which will be to review progress and identify ongoing challenges since the first workshop in June 2019, as well as consulting a wider group of CM stakeholders on the working group’s draft report and recommendations. This will once again be kindly supported by NHS England and the Veterans Foundation. Contact members, associates and others that are directly involved in veterans’ case management will be invited to attend. Further details will be shared when confirmed.

Quality & accreditation

  • Contact is developing a quality and accreditation scheme for teams from both statutory and non-statutory organisations that provide mental health treatment to veterans, together with a quality ‘kitemark’ to help potential users easily identify quality-checked services. The scheme will use the accreditation services of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and will include a one-year pilot for 10 teams to test the first edition of the sector-specific quality standards, the development of which have been aided by the advisory group for the network, made up of expert clinicians from the sector.
  • NHS England have provided funding for the first and second years of the scheme to enable 10 teams to participate in the pilot and the following year, and a further 10 teams in the first full year of the scheme, once the pilot is complete. The 10 pilot teams include two NHS England providers, one each from NHS Scotland and NHS Wales and six teams from the third/independent sector, all from different locations across the UK, including Contact members, associates and others. The teams are currently starting the 12 month pilot which begins with a 3 month period of self-review.
  • At the end of the pilot, the quality standards will be reviewed by the advisory group and amended if necessary, based on the experiences of the pilot teams. They will then be finalised ready for the start of the first full year of the scheme in autumn 2021, when the network will be opened up to any treatment delivery teams that may want to participate.
  • If your organisation delivers mental health treatment to veterans and would like more information about participating in the scheme after the pilot, please contact Anna Owen: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk

Data dashboard

  • The aim of work in this area is to create a UK military mental health data dashboard to help the sector identify trends in both need and provision. The MoD, as Executive Lead for this area, produced a fourth edition of the dashboard for Contact member review and discussion in June. However, due to the necessary focus by members on Covid-19 priorities, it proved difficult to obtain new data in this period. As such, the recent focus has instead been on a series of virtual workshops with each of the Contact data-contributing charities in order to work through their relevant data, including the different kinds of demand and outcome data that are have available, as well as developing a coordinated process for submitting new data for future editions of the dashboard.
  • The workshops ran through the autumn and all three sessions with Combat Stress, Walking With The Wounded and Help for Heroes were extremely useful and productive. These will be followed by a fourth workshop for all three charities to share, compare and learn from their experiences of data collection. A fifth and final session will be held in early Jan when the findings of the workshops will be presented to Contact members for feedback and these will also be shared in future newsletters.

Research

  • The aim of work in this area is to ensure that Contact, its members and associates are aware of relevant ongoing and completed military mental health-related research and understand its application to their work. In December, Contact members agreed to extend the academic/research membership of Contact to aid this aim by identifying and inviting relevant departments or centres to become Research Associates (listed at the top of this newsletter).
  • Members also previously agreed to establish a smaller ‘Research sub-group’ made up of a small number of standing members and a larger rotating selection of Research Associates, who will support the Executive Lead with the primary aims of this workstream. The sub-group has now been established with Dr Alan Finnegan from Univ of Chester as chair. The group met for the first time in Oct and a report of the discussions was subsequently presented to Contact members. The relevant research that was recommended by the group is listed below under Research. The group also identified a number of gaps in current  military mental health research: minorities’ access to healthcare, dementia, service widows and families and children. The group next meets in Dec when members will discuss these gaps further and how to address them. Updates on the group’s future research recommendations and other work will feature in future newsletters.

Communications

  • We are delighted that a Contact application to the Veterans Foundation for funding for the design, build, support and hosting for two years of a new website was successful and work is now underway with a recommended web design agency. The new site will retain the existing Contact logo and design principles but the majority of the content will be re-written and restructured in order to more accurately reflect the current sector coordination and collaboration-focused work of the group. We will share further updates about the new site’s progress and intended launch date as soon as confirmed.
  • Contact uses Twitter (@Contact_AF) to tweet and retweet information about its work and the work and services of members, associates and others relevant to military mental health and related issues – do follow us if you aren’t already!

Additional work related to Covid-19

  • Since the start of Covid-19, Contact has been working with partners to help coordinate a series of regionally-focused online meetings for veterans’ mental health (VMH) service providers. The aim is VMH service information sharing and networking. The first (pilot) meeting targeted to the SW region took place in mid-May hosted by Togetherall with representatives from around 10 organisations. The second, targeted to the NE region, took place in early June hosted by Walking With The Wounded with representatives from around 14 service providers. The third, also hosted by WWTW for the NE, took place in late July with representatives from around 15 service providers.
  • All events have been warmly received and the aim is to continue to host meetings like this for other regions around the UK, working with identified networks where they already exist, as well as to encourage the continued hosting of regular meetings for regions where participating organisations feel they would be useful. A third meeting for the NE will be planned soon and the next new region of focus will be the East of England followed by NW England and Scotland. Dates for future meetings will be shared once confirmed. If your organisation is interested in hosting or participating in future meetings, please email Anna Owen: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk

Upcoming events

Contact Group meetings & events:

  • Contact Group quarterly meetings for core members take place in around March, June, September and December each year, usually in different locations around the UK. The last meeting took place on 14 Oct online and the next will take place on 14 Jan, also online, and will include our annual strategy session with the Chairs (or equivalent) of member organisations. Contact Associates are welcome to observe a Contact quarterly meeting (on a first come first served basis) – please email Anna Owen if interested: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk
  • Research sub-group quarterly meetings for research associate members of the sub-group for the current year take place prior to each Contact quarterly meeting.
  • Contact’s second Case Management workshop, spring 2021 (date and format tbc) – as mentioned above, further details will be circulated when confirmed.

External events:

Please feel free to submit details of any relevant events for circulation or inclusion in future newsletters to Anna: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk


Research

As mentioned above, the Contact Research sub-group held its first meeting in Oct when members identified the following relevant, recent and going military mental health research (listed here together with one additional, recent item):

  • Help-Seeking for Alcohol Problems in Serving and Ex-Serving Military Personnel, Nov 2020, King’s College London and University of Liverpool funded by Forces in Mind Trust
  • The Mental Health and Treatment Needs of UK Ex-Military Personnel, Oct 2020, King’s College London and University of Liverpool funded by Forces in Mind Trust – Provides new evidence on the mental health of ex-Service personnel who served during recent military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It makes comparisons with the general population and examines the suitability of existing services for mild to moderate mental health problems.
  • Lifting our Sights: Beyond 2030 – The impact of future trends on the transition of our Armed Forces community from military to civilian life. An initial Perspective paper, Aug 2020, funded by Forces in Mind Trust – Looks at some national shifts likely to take place over the next decade, considers some trends affecting the Armed Forces Community as a whole, then focuses on those that may impact the charity sector.
  • The mental health needs of serving and ex-Service personnel, May 2020, NatCen funded by Forces in Mind Trust – Brings together evidence on the prevalence of mental health problems in serving and ex-Service personnel and their families, the experiences of those suffering from mental health problems and the effectiveness of interventions used to treat them.
  • Veterans-CHECK is an online study aimed at investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the ex-service population of the UK. The research entails data collection June-September 2020 focused on COVID-19 experiences, but forms part of a longitudinal study, since 2003. One aim of this study is to give the OVA and Armed Forces stakeholders, evidence on which to make assessment of need in the veteran community and provide policy and practical support where necessary. Results will be presented at stakeholder meetings and at the King’s College London Veterans’ Mental Health Conference 2021 (details above under Events).

Useful research links

For general browsing and/or to keep up to date on the latest research, you may find it useful to check the latest publications on these sites:

There are many useful sources of military mental health research – if you are aware of others that it would be useful to include in future newsletters, please email them to Anna: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk

Participating in research

Contact is occasionally asked by academics or researchers to pass on requests for members, associates or beneficiaries to support or participate in ongoing or proposed research. We circulate these opportunities as and when they arise. Academics or researchers interested in reaching out to Contact members, associates and others about research participation opportunities are welcome to email Anna: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk


Funding Opportunities

  • The Veterans’ Foundation provides grants to organisations that help serving and retired members of the armed forces, qualifying seafarers and their dependants. Grants of up to £30,000 over one to three years are available and deadlines for applications are the end of Dec, March, May and Sept. The Foundation is also currently making emergency grants available for charities carrying out work related to Covid-19, as well as grants to cover staff salaries.
  • The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust currently has four programmes open for applications: the NAAFI Fund, Positive Pathways, Force for Change and One is Too Many.
  • The National Lottery Community Fund is currently prioritising funding for projects and organisations supporting people and communities affected by Covid-19.
  • The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) coronavirus emergency fund for smaller charities is currently paused, however they have provided a list of other sources Covid-19 related funding for charities.
  • Cobseo has a dedicated Covid-19 funding sources page that is updated regularly and which includes the above opportunities as well as others.

We feature ongoing funding opportunities in newsletters and will circulate details of any additional opportunities as and when they arise. Please feel free to submit any relevant funding opportunities for circulation or inclusion in future newsletters to Anna: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk

We hope you have found this Contact quarterly newsletter informative and useful. Please let us know your thoughts – we welcome feedback, including whether you would find it useful to have more, less or different content included in future editions. Please feel free to email Anna: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk