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

What we do

Contact members, associates and partners are currently working collaboratively on a number of identified priority military mental health projects. Each project is led by a nominated Contact member as Executive Lead to advise and assist with work in that area. If you would like further information about any of Contact’s work areas listed below, please contact us.

Photo credit: Combat Stress

Case Management >

Common Assessment >

Quality and accreditation >

Data Dashboard >

Research >

Associates programme >

Communications >

Case Management

Executive Lead: Cobseo

In March 2021 Contact, with the support of NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Veterans Foundation, will be hosting a second Case Management workshop. The event is designed for professionals working in the UK armed forces sector whose role either directly involves or intersects with issues around the case management of service user/beneficiary veterans. It will be the second Case Management workshop hosted by Contact and will aim to assess progress since the first event in June 2019 as well as update and consult attendees on the ongoing work of Contact in this area.

The Contact/Cobseo case management working group that was established after the first event has produced a draft report and recommendations which will be presented at the workshop and feedback invited from attendees. The event will either be in-person or virtual – details will be shared as soon as they are confirmed. There are limited spaces available and they will be allocated in order of priority to representatives whose job roles and/or organisations demonstrate a direct involvement with veterans’ case management.

Places are currently limited to one representative per organisation. If you are interested in attending on behalf of your organisation and would like to be considered for a place, please email Anna Owen on anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk including your name, job role, organisation, website and a short description of how your job role and/or organisation is involved in case management.

Common assessment

Executive Lead: NHS England and NHS Improvement

Contact work on a common assessment framework (CAF) for use by both NHS, charity and independent military mental health treatment providers for assessing users coming into their services has been led by NHS England which chairs a sub-group of Contact members working on this issue. It is envisaged that, when rolled out, the use of the CAF and accompanying information system will mean that when veterans move between or access multiple different service providers (whether they are statutory or non-statutory), due to the common information that has been collected by providers and the information sharing capabilities this system will allow, they will not be required to repeat their medical and military histories multiple times which can be traumatic, frustrating and time consuming.

Current plans are to pilot the CAF and the information system with selected NHS providers and then roll out the system to providers on a voluntary basis from April 2021 and on a mandatory basis for NHS providers from April 2022.

Quality and accreditation

Executive Lead: Royal College of Psychiatrists

Improved quality and accreditation of military mental health treatment providers will help members of the armed forces community know whether a potential treatment provider is operating according to recognised best practice. Contact is working with the Royal College of Psychiatrists to develop a quality network and accreditation scheme with an accompanying and easily recognisable quality ‘kitemark’ so that those looking for treatment can quickly and easily identify whether the treatment providers they are considering have been quality checked. An advisory group for the network has been established, comprising expert clinicians from the military mental health sector. This group has helped to draft the first set of quality standards that will ultimately be used to measure the quality of services offered by treatment providers. The first edition of these will be tested in a 12 month pilot funded by NHS England and NHS Improvement with ten selected teams drawn from the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales and charity/independent providers from across the UK. The pilot is starting in autumn 2020 with a three month period of self-review. Following that, peer reviews will take place.

At the end of the pilot, the quality standards will be reviewed and adjusted if necessary before the scheme is opened up to all military mental health teams that may want to participate from autumn 2021 onwards. Further details about how to get involved will be announced at that point. Please contact us in the meantime if you would like further information or would like to receive sign-up details when they are ready.

Data dashboard

Executive Lead: Ministry of Defence

Contact and the MoD are working on developing a military mental health data dashboard. The aim is to use all available data on the numbers of veterans and serving personnel in clinical mental health treatment in the UK including MoD, NHS and charity treatment providers, as well as any outcome data and indicators of capacity to present a complete picture of strength and nature of demand, capacity and outcomes across all parts of the military mental health sector. The intention is that the dashboard will be updated on a quarterly basis and circulated to those wanting an overview of the big picture and emerging trends in military mental health. Editions of the dashboard to date have focused more on the available MoD and NHS data rather than that of charity and other independent providers. As such, work is currently underway to hold online data workshops with each of the data contributing charities within Contact, Combat Stress, Help for heroes and Walking With The Wounded.

It is hoped that these will result in a better understanding of the data available in the charity sector and enable its fuller inclusion in future editions of the dashboard to achieve a more complete representation of the picture of demand and outcomes across the fuller range of treatment providers operating in the military mental health sector.

Research

Executive Lead: Northern Ireland Veterans’ Support Office

Contact work in the area of Research includes the monitoring of relevant, recent and ongoing military mental health-related research and interpreting and reporting on it for the benefit of Contact members, associates and the wider sector, as well as identifying and monitoring potential gaps in the relevant research. This is the specific role of the new Contact Research sub-group, on which a selection of Contact Research Associates have opted to sit for the coming year. The group has 12 members and is chaired by Dr Alan Finnegan of the Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans at the University of Chester. The group meets quarterly, before each Contact Group quarterly meeting, and submits a report to Contact for review and discussion by members.

Associate membership programme

Executive Lead: Togetherall

The Contact Associate membership programme has been introduced to bring Cobseo member organisations that are involved in providing mental health support to serving personnel, veterans or families into the Contact Group as Associate members to complement the existing core membership. Membership is free of charge and Contact Associates can benefit from involvement in Contact’s ongoing military mental health-related projects (when opportunities arise), consultations, information sharing and other communications about Contact and the work of the wider sector including our quarterly newsletter.

Associates are also included on our Associates page where a summary of activities and useful links can be featured. If your organisation is interested in joining, please read the invitation letter and complete and email back a joining form. If you have any queries about the scheme, please feel free to contact us. The programme is currently open to Cobseo member organisations, and in future it will be extended to others. Further information on applying in this case will be posted here and in our News section when it is confirmed.

Communications

Executive Lead: Walking With The Wounded

Contact work in the area of communications is aimed at improving awareness, sector-wide and beyond, of Contact’s work and that of its members and associates through the use of various communications channels including this website, social media, newsletters and other information sharing, and the hosting of both online and in-person events.

Since the first Covid-19 lockdown, Contact has been working with partners to help coordinate a series of regionally-focused online meetings for military mental health service providers and beneficiaries. The aim is service information sharing and networking, as well as signposting and provision of support for beneficiaries. The first (pilot) meeting for SW England took place in mid-May hosted by Contact member Togetherall. The second and third, both for NE England, took place in early June and late July respectively and were hosted by Contact member Walking With The Wounded. It is hoped that a third meeting for NE England will be hosted soon and current plans are that the next regions of focus for similar online events will be East England and NW England. Further details will be shared as soon as they are confirmed.

Contact us

If you have queries about the work of the Contact Group or its membership, please email the Contact Project Officer, Anna Owen on: anna.owen@contactarmedforces.org.uk