Mental health providers are being offered the chance to bid to develop and provide services to support armed forces veterans.

NHS England announced last week that current service providers can submit bids to run existing mental health services for veterans, with procurement of the services for 2017-18 beginning later this month.

The new services will be funded with £1.5m from the commissioning budget and £1.68m of funding from LIBOR fines.

NHS England said each bid will be assessed against a procurement framework that includes quality, safety, patient experience, mobilisation, resilience and value for money. Veterans will be part of the assessment panel.

A consultation was launched in January asking former armed forces personnel for their views on the mental health services available for veterans

The chair of NHS England’s clinical reference group for armed forces and their families, Jonathan Leach, said the survey revealed more work needed to be done to:

  • raise awareness among veterans of where to go for help;
  • increase understanding among clinicians of the unique mental health issues faced by members of the armed forces;
  • support a smooth transition from armed forces healthcare to NHS care; and
  • improve recognition of the warning signs of mental health problems, trauma and alcohol and substance misuse, and improve diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Leach added: “There is no doubt that NHS staff work as hard as they can to provide the best quality of care for everyone, including military veterans.

“However, our engagement campaign has provided invaluable feedback from veterans that has shown how we can improve and tailor our services better. This means starting from when armed forces personnel are nearing the end of their service. It is at this point we need to identify what onward support they will require from the NHS so the right care and treatment is in place ready for them.”

The survey was carried out because the contracts for the 12 mental health services specifically for veterans are up for procurement this year.

North Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust and the Pennine Care FT both ran NHS England-commissioned pilots from November last year to March, testing new models of mental health care for veterans.

NHS England and the Ministry of Defence – which jointly commission armed forces’ care – are working with veterans’ charities to develop the new services and judge the bids.

Improving mental health services for veterans is part of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health which said only half of veterans with mental health provides seek NHS support and those that do “are rarely referred to the right service”.