Walk around Westminster, and there is not the slightest hint that Britain has recently fought four wars, with a fifth still under way. Within half a mile of the Cenotaph there are monuments to Clive of India, the Women of World War II and a new one, just outside the Foreign Office, listing every victim of the 2002 Bali nightclub bomb. The names of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, are engraved 130 miles away at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. True, the latest casualties are read out at the start of Prime Ministers Questions. But the ongoing campaign in Helmand, with its successes and setbacks, is almost entirely absent from the day-to-day political debate. Commemorating the dead is, of course, only part of our annual ceremonies. Few who buy a poppy now think of it as a gesture to mark a historical event: Britain is, once again, a war-fighting country, and the bond between people and military has seldom been stronger. The scenes at Wootton Bassett were only the most visible manifestation of a shift in national mood, in which new charities such as Help for Heroes were given truly generous donations by a recession-struck nation. That money is badly needed: modern medicine can save soldiers who might otherwise have died in action, but these survivors need help and support to lead a very different life, and it does not come cheaply. For the first time in more than a generation, Britain has a sizeable community of young veterans. But it does not yet have the apparatus to support them. There are now more than 190,000 people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, of whom 50,000 saw active service. While David Cameron has cut military spending, he has been keen to prioritise veterans welfare, with his Military Covenant passing a duty of care into law. But he still does not know precisely what support is needed and how best his unwieldy government machine can provide it. While Americans had the Vietnam conflict, which taught them how to deal with the mass demobilisation of young men, Britains understanding of the problem is still in its infancy. For all the wars that we have fought, we are terribly slow learners when it comes to the effects of combat. America has produced a wealth of literature on post-traumatic stress disorder and its attendant problems, and has a whole industry based on detecting and treating its sufferers. But the issue still seems to surprise our authorities. In America, 20 per cent of combat veterans are affected by PTSD. Here, the official figure is 4 per cent. Either Americans are five times as vulnerable, or Britain has some way to go in assessing the scale of the problem. It was only understood relatively recently that more veterans of the Falklands committed suicide after being discharged than died in the conflict itself. The same seems to be true for the Gulf War, where just 47 died but 183 suicides or open verdicts have also been recorded. Such a ratio has clear and sobering implications for the Afghan conflict, in which British soldiers have seen the heaviest fighting since Korea. Combat Stress, a charity supported by The Daily Telegraph that has been doing outstanding work since the First World War, estimates that it takes up to 14 years for the full symptoms to emerge. So far, the Governments policy has been to discharge the veterans and trust the National Health Service to do whatever is necessary. But among the charities who work with them, there is little if any confidence that the NHS is up to the task. A Royal British Legion survey among GPs found widespread ignorance about the very specific factors that affect former soldiers. The Department of Health now has a Military Health & Veterans division, which has set up guidelines for doctors. But those who run it have been appalled by the low level of interest in their work. It is easy to see why. Statistically, the average GP sees a new veteran every 16 months making ex-servicemen a tiny fraction of their workload. Combat Stress says that just five per cent of its referrals come from GPs; many are soldiers from the Bosnian campaign. It is difficult to imagine that the NHS will be much improved by the time the veterans of Afghanistan start to come forward. The Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, is ill-inclined to take over. This is not simply official callousness: the military is reluctant to believe that its troops are so broken, and is understandably suspicious about studies suggesting (as one did recently) that 9 per cent of prisoners are ex-military. Besides, the quality of much of the data is so poor that no one knows for sure. As for the Prime Minister himself, it is impossible to fault his efforts. Three days after assuming office, he called Andrew Murrison, a Tory MP and former naval doctor, and asked him to produce a report on veterans mental health. This is now being implemented in full, with urgency. Liam Fox, a former Army doctor, had campaigned for years on mental health, and could not have been more supportive. But in spite of seeing decades of cases of traumatic stress many involving those who served in Northern Ireland the medical and military establishment is still feeling its way. The wholehearted public support has at least led to a number of excellent and entrepreneurial ex-service charities being set up. But their funding is vulnerable. At present, wearing the poppy is very much the done thing far more so than a generation ago. But when the judges on The X Factor display bejewelled poppies, it is in danger of becoming overly fashionable. When something becomes fashionable, inevitably it will soon become unfashionable. Combat Stress needs to raise 10 million a year to cope with its current workload: it may well need far more in short order, at a time when Afghanistan is receding from the headlines and funding for such charities is not so abundant. The solution is becoming steadily clearer. Splitting funding across various Government departments is not working, and it is unrealistic to expect GPs to acquire the required expertise. Britain needs a dedicated ministry for veterans, similar to Americas, with regional centres and staff who can advise on anything from housing issues to employment advice, as well as co-ordinate with the network of service charities who seem very much here to stay. It could even be the perfect vehicle for the Prime Ministers Big Society agenda. Every time a politician suggests that Britain should introduce some flag-waving national day, the idea dies a death, amid deserved ridicule. Today is our national day, when we quietly remember those who died to assure Britains freedom and who are still risking their lives for their country. Now, more than ever, remembrance is about helping the living as well as saluting the dead. And there is all too much work to do. Fraser Nelson is Editor of 'The Spectator Telegraph