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

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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 metareview on treatment effectiveness; and a synthesis highlighting research priorities.


For the evidence reviews, any setting that was relevant to the UK health and social care system.


UK armed forces veterans with PTSD following repeated exposure to traumatic events.


Any model of care or treatment.

Main outcome measures

Any relevant outcome.

Data sources

Information about current UK practice. Searches of databases [including MEDLINE, PsycINFO and PILOTS (Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress)], guidelines and relevant websites, up to November 2016.

Review methods

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 metareview 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. Promising treatments were psychosocial interventions (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, cognitive processing therapy, trauma-focused and exposure-based intervention) and pharmacotherapy (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics) for improving PTSD and mental health symptoms.


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.

Future work

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.


The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages142
JournalHealth Services and Delivery Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

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