Sign up today to 'fight the good fight' in becoming a veteran-friendly practice recognising, understanding and providing the best care for our veterans

25 June 2021

Sergeant X left the army six years ago, having served for 12 years, including front-line combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan. He struggled to adjust to "civvy" life and his mental health spiralled, he lost his job and alcohol became his support. He was referred to alcohol services and community mental health by his GP but defaulted follow-up as he felt that no-one understood. Financial difficulties left him homeless and sofa-surfing at friends in locations around the country.

He hit rock bottom, feeling desperate and suicidal. He saw a local GP as a temporary resident at a veteran-friendly accredited practice and was asked "have you ever served in the Armed Forces?". This understanding uncovered recurring nightmares, flashbacks and hypervigilance.

The GP referred Sergeant X to Op COURAGE, the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, and he was contacted within a few days by a veteran working for the service. He was referred into the Veterans Complex Treatment Service and he is now on the road to recovery after receiving intensive trauma-based therapy and EMDR. He was also provided with support by veterans' charities for housing and financial assistance, and his life has turned around.

As we approach Armed Forces Day on 26 June, there are over 965 RCGP veteran-friendly accredited GP practices in England (see more below).

Sign up today to 'fight the good fight' in becoming a veteran-friendly practice recognising, understanding and providing the best care for our veterans.

Post written by

Brigadier (Retd) Robin Simpson OStJ MSc FRCGP and Dr Veronica Grant FRCGP

Robin is recently retired from the Army after 35 years' service. He is a GP in the Midlands. In April 2019 he was appointed the RCGP Veterans' Champion responsible for the programme accrediting NHS England GP Practices as 'Veterans' Friendly'.

Veronica is RCGP Clinical Champion for veterans' health. She has been a GP for 12 years, including working as a Civilian Medical Practitioner for Defence Medical Services. A GP in Matlock, Derbyshire, she is also a GP trainer and former Training Programme Director. She has personal experience as a military spouse during her husband's career serving in the Armed Forces, as well as personal insight into the transition into civilian life. 

Latest updates from College Chair Martin Marshall

Future of the vaccination programme

The College teamed up with NHS Providers, representing NHS trusts, on Monday to put a series of questions to Government about the future of the COVID vaccination programme. You can read the blog I penned with NHS Providers Chief Executive Chris Hopson in Times Red Box.

With 75% of vaccines in England being delivered in primary care - about 66% overall in general practice according to latest analysis - the way you have responded to the vaccination programme has been remarkable. And the programme has been world leading as a result.

Work is ongoing giving younger age groups their vaccines - but we need to know what the thinking is around a booster programme so we can plan accordingly. Will one be necessary; how it will work alongside the flu programme; and who will deliver it? I said on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that any scheme needs to be properly resourced, particularly in terms of workforce, as we approach what is set to be a busy winter. The story led BBC News bulletins throughout the day and received significant regional and national coverage.

Veterans' health

Tomorrow we mark Armed Forces Day and celebrate our Veteran Friendly Accredited Practices. Becoming an accredited practice is completely free and it’s very easy to register. Currently almost 1,000 practices in England are accredited, with more joining them each month. We equip GPs and practice teams with the latest training and information to provide the best care for veterans registered at their practices. You can sign up today.

Our latest training resources include a webinar and a two-part podcast on the NHS care of families of serving military personnel. Visit the Learning Resources section of our Veterans’ Healthcare Toolkit.

You can also join us for a free veterans' health educational event on 19 July at 19:00. You can register now.

Council meeting

It’s also June Council tomorrow and, as always, we have a very packed agenda.

As well as discussions about the ongoing challenges of GP workforce and workload, I’m looking forward to some stimulating debate around the major 'thought leadership' issues for general practice now and in the future: remote care, relationship-based care and the role of multi-disciplinary teams.

Council papers are available to all members via the MyRCGP section of the website - we were the first medical Royal College to do this - and you can also follow the debate on Twitter.

Voting in our latest round of Council elections opens on 1 July so look out for information coming to you from Civica independent election services. Six seats are being contested and the successful candidates will take up their three-year term of office in November.

Please do use this important opportunity to elect the GPs who will represent you for the next three years.

RCGP LIVE - Health and Care Bill

Join Vice Chair for External Affairs Gary Howsam and an expert panel including Ruth Rankine (Director of Primary Care, NHS Confederation) and Richard Vautrey (Chair of GPC, BMA) to discuss the impact of the new Health and Care Bill on GPs and on patients in our next #RCGPLive.

Watch live on YouTube this Thursday 1 July at 19:00 and tweet your questions for the panel using #RCGPLIVE.

Climate change

The College signed a letter from health bodies across the UK urging the Government to immediately introduce new legally-binding air quality targets. The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change's (UKHACC) message is that Government plans as they stand are insufficient to protect the public from immediate harm.

The environment bill currently going through parliament offers an opportunity to make a legally-binding commitment to reducing fine particulate pollution in the UK to below the maximum level recommended by the WHO by 2030. At the very least, the UKHACC is calling for the WHO limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of the minuscule 'PM2.5' particles given off by traffic, industry and fossil fuels - half the current UK level of 20 micrograms.

RCGP Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and we fully support the UKHACC's calls for stronger protection from air pollution because we know that it puts our patients at a higher risk of developing serious health problems, such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease - and can make existing conditions, such as asthma, worse.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to plug this Radio 4 'Four Thought' piece by NE London GP Tamsin Eliis, Chair of Greener Practice London. It's called 'Climate Consultations', and it's a really thoughtful and insightful listen.

First5 Pathway and managing concurrent health problems

We’re delighted to be preparing for the launch of the First5 Pathway - a brand new CPD framework which will enable members to easily identify and navigate RCGP resources linked to five learning outcomes for their early careers.

Join us for a free webinar on 8 July at 19:00 where we’ll introduce the Pathway with a focus on the management of concurrent health problems. We’ll discuss a real-life scenario of managing a multi-morbid elderly patient and there will be lots of opportunities to ask questions.

You can register now

Post written by

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of RCGP Council

Professor Martin Marshall is Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a GP in Newham, East London. He is also Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL in the Department of Primary Care and Population Health. Previously he was Programme Director for Population Health and Primary Care at UCLPartners (2014-2019), Director of Research & Development at the Health Foundation (2007-2012), Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and Director General in the Department of Health (2006-2007), Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester (2000-2006) and a Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy. 

He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine and was a non-executive director of the Care Quality Commission until 2012. He has advised governments in Singapore, Egypt, Canada and New Zealand, has over 230 publications in the field of quality improvement and health service redesign and his primary academic interest is in maximising the impact of research on practice. In 2005 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for Services to Health Care. 

A co-founder and driving force of the Rethinking Medicine movement, Martin has a passionate commitment to the values of the NHS, patient care and ensuring the GP voice is central in a time of great change. When he’s not working, he likes being outside, preferably on a mountain or a coastal path with his wife Sue and their puppy. 

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