HEALTH / WELL-BEING

The provision of services in the UK for UK armed forces veterans with PTSD: a rapid evidence synthesis

Article

The purpose of this research was to gather information about current UK services for veterans with PTSD, what treatments are likely to work best and how care can be effectively delivered.

Full Reference

Our research arises from anticipated increases in demand for psychological trauma services in the UK, with particular reference to armed forces veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Commissioning and service provider activity to improve veterans’ health is evolving. To explore what UK services exist and establish potentially effective models of care and effective treatments for armed forces veterans with PTSD. A four-stage rapid evidence synthesis comprising information gathering on UK service provision; an evidence review on models of care; a meta review on treatment effectiveness; and a synthesis highlighting research priorities. We screened titles and abstracts using EPPI-Reviewer 4 (EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, UK) and EndNote X7 [Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), Philadelphia, PA, USA]. Decisions to include papers were made by two reviewers independently. We conducted a narrative synthesis of research literature on models of care and on treatments, guided by information from UK practice. In our evidence reviews, we assessed (when appropriate) the quality of included studies using established criteria. To help interpret our findings, we consulted recently published public and patient involvement data, a veteran service user and experts with academic, military and commissioning backgrounds. We gathered information about current UK practice. Sixty-one studies were included in the rapid evidence review on models of care and seven systematic reviews in the rapid meta review of treatments. The quality of evidence in both evidence reviews was limited. Promising models of care from more robust studies (three randomised controlled trials and one qualitative study) were collaborative arrangements and community outreach for improving intervention access and uptake; integrated mental health services and behavioural intervention on increased smoking abstinence; and peer support as an acceptable complement to PTSD treatment. A poor fit was noted between the research literature and UK service provision. The literature pool was larger than anticipated. Evidence for potentially effective models of care and potentially effective treatments is limited in quality and quantity. Although we aimed for a comprehensive evidence synthesis, pragmatic decisions in searching, screening and inclusion of studies may mean that relevant studies were overlooked. There is tentative support for the effectiveness of some models of care and certain treatments currently delivered in UK practice. Our findings are timely for commissioners and service providers when developing present activity in veterans’ health care. We report potential implications for future health-care practice, including early intervention for veterans transitioning from military life, improving general practitioners’ knowledge about services, implementing needs-based service design and tackling wider-system challenges. Regarding potential areas of future research, we have identified the need for more-robust (and longer) evaluative studies in the UK setting.