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Research

Research

The below research look into the health and wellbeing of the Armed Forces community:

1. NFF Mental Health Survey – Results

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey about mental health for Royal Navy and Royal Marines families in 2018. Your feedback was extremely valuable and helped us to represent accurately your views and experiences. The results of the survey are here. 

  

This survey was carried out to assist the House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) with its inquiry into the Mental Health of the Armed Forces. The Committee makes recommendations for change. On 25 July 2018 it published Part 1 of its report into the Mental Health of the Armed Forces, which considers the scale of mental health issues. The Naval Families Federation provided evidence for this report. The Committee accepted our view that mental health should be considered in a holistic way, rather than focusing solely on the serving person. We want to find out more about the impact of military service and lifestyles on the mental health of all family members, to make sure you are properly supported. Part 1 of the Committee’s report acknowledges that families’ mental health can be affected by the stresses of Service life and by traumatic events experienced by their military partners. It makes a number of recommendations, including that the Ministry of Defence, in conjunction with the health departments of the four nations, places a greater focus on Service and veterans’ families as part of its mental health care provision. This should include supporting further research into the mental health of current and former Service families to determine what provision is needed. The Ministry of Defence should also monitor how this provision is applied across the UK as part of its annual report on the Armed Forces Covenant. 

  

Part 1 of the HCDC report is available online and you can also read our evidence from our website.  Also see part two of the HCDC Report. 

2. NHS acts on your views

NHS England is seeking to improve the health and wellbeing support provided to military families, and your views are helping to shape that plan. The NHS in England provides healthcare services for families of serving personnel – regulars and reservists – who have registered with an NHS GP practice. But not everyone in the NHS understands the specific health needs of Armed Forces families, and what they are entitled to under the Armed Forces Covenant. That can mean, in some cases, that such families have problems getting the right care and support, which can lead to further challenges and difficulties. 

  

Armed Forces community support networks have been set up in some parts of the country, focussing on improving their experience of health services, and feedback from families with experience of such networks has been positive. But in many areas such links are more informal and not as well-developed, so one strand of the engagement exercise was to explore whether setting up more networks might help. 

  

The engagement took place for two months from the end of September 2020, supported by a questionnaire and a series of online focus groups and one-to-one interviews. More than 160 organisations were contacted directly to encourage responses, and with the supporting media also playing its part, a total of 1,391 responses were received by the NHS. Armed Forces families contributed 424 responses, and more than 80 per cent of the respondents were aged between 26 and 65. Just under 20 per cent of the respondents were from, or had links to, the Royal Navy or Royal Marines. 

  

Front cover of the NHS report

Click here to access the research findings.

Now the results have been analysed, the NHS is embarking on a programme of actions under the heading ‘you said, we will do…’ 

 

One general theme that emerged was that Armed Forces families believed they would benefit from more information and dedicated support to help them find and access NHS services, and that a person acting as a single point of contact outside the chain of command, rather than an array of documents and leaflets, would be more helpful. And one line of thought is that community support networks could fulfil the function of a single point of contact, as well as helping NHS organisations understand the military culture and lifestyle, as well as the implications of the Armed Forces Covenant. 

  

Furthermore, reducing waiting times as a result of moving bases and more joined-up communication between NHS organisations and between the NHS and Defence Medical Services (DMS) would ensure that Armed Forces families do not repeatedly have to start the referral process every time they move. 

  

Respondents also indicated that better understanding from NHS staff, particularly from GPs, would make accessing services easier. 

  

These findings have been shared with decision makers to help shape what support could be put in place for Armed Forces families in the future – and although this engagement has been completed, the NHS will continue to seek the views and experiences of Armed Forces families to ensure that any future support put in place meets their needs. The findings will be considered by the NHS England and NHS Improvement Armed Forces Oversight Group (AFOG), who will look at what actions are needed to progress improvements in this area. 

  

Agreed actions will be progressed in collaboration with the NHS England and NHS Improvement Armed Forces Patient and Public Voice Group, Armed Forces families/Armed Forces community, the Naval Families Federation and our two sister groups in the Army and RAF, the wider NHS, Department of Health and Social Care and Ministry of Defence. 

3. Duty and Care: Armed Forces Family Mobility and Health Care

NFF news – 21st February, 2022 

Today the Naval, Army and RAF Families Federations launch the ‘Duty and Care: Armed Forces Family Mobility and Health Care’ report. This report provides practical recommendations to inform and tackle disadvantage as well as improve health outcomes for families required to move frequently due to Service need. 

  

This study, supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement and the MOD Families Team, was conducted by the Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), and sponsored by the three Families Federations. Families have shared their experiences to form the basis of this research and as the Foreword says, “Their voices are the most important ones here”. 

  

The recommendations were co-created by key stakeholders to identify the clearest possible lines of responsibility and accountability. 

 

 Top line recommendations are:
  1. Gaining confidence of families – that the Service will support them, but the Service needs to be kept informed about any health factors that might affect postings 
  1. Building on existing frameworks – to support postings – ensuring that information is captured effectively 
  1. Encourage families to identify current and potential needs to primary care 
  1. Expand the education and training of all NHS staff to understand the needs of mobile military families 
  1. Provide more information to military families on the variable nature of the NHS, particularly when moving across devolved national borders 
  1. Improving transfer of information – the transfer of health care records between primary care organisations 
  1. Continuity of care, using remote access 
  1. Creating single points of contact for Armed Forces families to seek advice 
  1. Dentistry – look for ways to support Service families seeking dental care 

   

 

Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Leo Docherty says: 

“As a former soldier, I know only too well that families are the backbone of our Armed Forces. But unlike Serving personnel, they haven’t chosen this career, so it is even more important we give them the support they need. One of the greatest challenges faced by military families is access to quality health care. 

  

“That’s why I very much welcome the practical recommendations set out in Anglia Ruskin University’s excellent report published today. 

  

“Anglia Ruskin University and the Families Federations have played their part… Now it is our turn. Our upcoming Families Strategy will work hand-in-glove with the NHS, care providers, MOD, single Services and the Families Federations to translate this advice into action.” 

  

Forces in Mind Trust Professor of Veterans and Families Studies, Michael Almond says: 

“Through interviews with military families and those with responsibility for providing, commissioning and advising on health care for military families we were able to deliver this report which provides practical and operational recommendations for policy and practice, directed at care providers, the NHS, MOD, and families themselves, to tackle disadvantage and improve health outcomes for those families required to move frequently as a result of Service need.” 

  

The Royal Navy’s Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Martin Connell CBE says: 

  

“The wellbeing of our Naval families is a vital factor in the effectiveness of our operations, so I welcome initiatives that provide our families with the support they deserve. 

  

“Military life creates a number of disruptive challenges for families to contend with, not least of which is the occasional requirement to move as duty demands. 

  

“This can disrupt or interrupt access to quality health care or education, so Anglia Ruskin University’s comprehensive report, sponsored by the Naval Families Federation and its partner organisations, will prove a valuable asset in improving the service and support provided to families. 

  

“The fact that the report draws directly on families’ experiences gives the recommendations particular weight, and it is now down to the MOD, the three Services, NHS England, care providers and the families federations to ensure that these recommendations are converted into practical measures. 

  

“We are proud of our Naval families, just as we are proud of our sailors and marines, and we must ensure that all members of the wider Naval family have unhindered access to the first-class health care provided by our wonderful NHS.” 

  

Further information/advice 

If you experience issues or concerns regarding your family’s health care you can contact us where our health and wellbeing subject lead can be on hand to help. 

4. WoW Study – The Wellbeing Of Women During And After Pregnancy

Researchers at King’s College London are carrying out a study into maternal health and wellbeing in the Armed Forces community. Findings from the study will be used to help those providing care to spouses and partners of UK Armed Forces personnel, including NHS and Defence healthcare professionals, Armed Forces charities, community and welfare teams, and perinatal health organisations. It is hoped that this will lead to improvements in services for spouses and partners of Service personnel during and after pregnancy.   

  

Background 

Pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby signifies a period of unprecedented change, excitement and hope for the future for most women. However, for some, it can be a particularly difficult time due to mental health issues, which may arise during or after pregnancy.  The spouses and partners of Armed Forces personnel may be at increased risk of developing a mental health problem in the perinatal period (pregnancy and up to 12 months following birth) as they are exposed to unique factors associated with this unique lifestyle.  

  

However, we know very little about what pregnancy and early motherhood is like for UK Armed Forces spouses and partners, with the majority of available evidence coming from the US.  

  

About this study 

The study is being supported by the three Families Federations and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The project is being conducted via an online survey. 

  

Get in touch 

If you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Research Team: