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9:06 AM 26th March 2024
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Initiative Launched To Help Thousands Of Military Veterans WHO May Be Silently Struggling With Their Health

 

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
A new initiative has been launched to improve veterans’ access to healthcare services, after new data found that thousands of former armed services personnel in Yorkshire may be silently struggling with their health.

The initiative, launched by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in conjunction with NHS England and the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA), aims to encourage more GP practices in Yorkshire to sign-up to become ‘Veteran Friendly’. It is part of a wider government campaign to encourage veterans to seek help and let their GP practice know they’ve served, and raise awareness of the support available to them.

The newly-commissioned study of nearly 5,000 veterans in England found that over half (58%) of respondents based in Yorkshire have experienced a mental or physical health issue potentially related to their service since leaving the armed forces, with 87% stating that their condition had deteriorated during this time.

Despite this, one in ten (11%) of those veterans based in Yorkshire who have experienced service-related issues after leaving the armed forces have not sought help from a healthcare professional. The most common reasons given nationally for not seeking help were that they ‘prefer to manage their issues on their own’ (30%) and believe a civilian health professional ‘won’t understand their experiences’ (15%).

However, the findings showed that 70% of veterans would be more likely to seek help for any issues they might experience if they knew their GP practice was signed up to the Veteran Friendly Accreditation scheme, which was launched by the RCGP and NHS England in 2018. The free support programme helps practices to deliver the best possible care and treatment for patients who have served in the UK armed forces.

As part of this new initiative, the RCGP is therefore encouraging more practices in Yorkshire to take the quick and simple step of signing up to the programme, which provides busy practice teams with a simple process for identifying, understanding and supporting veterans and, where appropriate, referring them to dedicated veterans physical and mental health and wellbeing services, such as Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service and Op RESTORE: The Veterans Physical Health and Wellbeing Service.

To date, 535 of the 949 GP practices in Yorkshire and the North East are accredited, while at a national level just over 3,000** of the 6,317 GP practices in England are signed up to the programme. An evaluation of the scheme by the University of Chester revealed that 99% of accredited practices recommend it – with the findings showing the most valued benefits of signing up are the simple process for identifying veterans, clear referral pathways to specialist NHS veteran healthcare services and faster access to dedicated support1.

Latest data suggests there are just over 185,000 veterans – defined as anyone who has served a day or more in the armed forces – in Yorkshire and The Humber, and 1.74m living in England2 - with research showing that they may have unique health needs as a result of their service. Common health issues can include musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders3, pain3, mental health problems4, drug and alcohol misuse5, adjustment disorders5 and hearing issues6. However, while the average GP practice sees a veteran patient every day, almost half (47%) of practices may be unaware of how many of their patients are veterans5.

Dr Jonathan Leach OBE, NHS England Associate Medical Director for Armed Forces and Veterans Health, said:
“Not only does the free programme support practice teams to deliver the best health outcomes for their veteran patients, but it also saves busy practice staff precious time by enabling them to more quickly and effectively identify, understand and support veterans - reducing the need for repeat appointments and shortening waiting times for diagnosis and treatments.”


Minister of State for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer, said:
“Providing veterans with access to the very best health care is a fundamental part of mine and this government's ambition to make this the best country in the world to be a veteran, with the RCGP and NHS England’s Veteran Friendly Accreditation scheme playing a pivotal role in supporting this.

“With this new research showing that veterans are more likely to seek help if they know their practice is Veteran Friendly Accredited, I’m urging those practices that are yet to sign up to take the quick and simple step to ensure they’re able to deliver the best possible care and support to the veteran community.”

“I encourage all veterans to contact their GP and identify themselves as a veteran, as doing so will help to ensure that they receive the support that’s right for them. It will also mean that they can access the specialist NHS health services that exist for them should they need to, such as Op COURAGE."


Signing up to become Veteran Friendly Accredited is a quick process and can be done by anyone in the practice team. After signing up, the practice team will receive regular resources and training designed to help them to deliver the very best care and treatment to patients who have served in the armed forces. They also receive materials to promote their Veteran Friendly status, enabling them to send a strong signal to those patients who have served in the armed forces.

Veterans can find out more about the support they can receive by telling their GP practice they have served and by clicking here.

Practice teams can learn more and get their practice Veteran Friendly Accredited by clicking here