Veteran Friendly GP Practices

14 June 2019

Brigadier Robin G Simpson QHS, RCGP Veterans Clinical Champion

The Veteran Friendly Practices accreditation programme was launched on the 5 June 2019 as the centerpiece of a workshop and forum held at the RCGP with Veterans Trauma Network, NHS England and NHS Improvement. Positive feedback came from veterans, who shared their experiences of the NHS in their 'recovery' journeys following serious trauma. Further support came from The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence People and Veterans. In his message he pushed the RCGP to offer accreditation to GP Surgeries across England.

There are 2.4 million UK Armed Forces Veterans in Great Britain, making up an 5% of the population aged 16 and over. Almost two-thirds of veterans are aged 65 years and over and majority are male. In addition to veterans, there are about 5.4 million adult spouses, partners, widowers and child dependants (overall mainly female) of veterans. About 18,000 service people move back into civilian life every year, including 2,000 who leave on medical grounds. However, there is evidence that GPs are unsure of how many veterans are registered with their practices and need more guidance on how to meet the health needs of this patient group.

 'A simple process where practices are required to meet specified criteria and provide evidence that they are supportive of veterans’ healthcare'

The RCGP is working alongside NHS England and NHS Improvement to accredit practices as ‘Veteran Friendly’. This involves a simple process where practices are required to meet specified criteria and provide evidence that they are supportive of veterans’ healthcare. After a successful pilot in the RCGP Midland Faculty, the programme is being rolled out nationally across England (and hopefully the rest of UK in due course). This work is fully supported by the Government and Defence Committee. There are now more than 180 accredited GP Veteran Friendly Surgeries across England.

This is a voluntary initiative; however, it is hoped that GPs will want to take part to help with the local identification of veterans. Knowing that a patient is a veteran will help the NHS to better meet the health commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant, whereby the armed forces community, including veterans, should face no disadvantage in accessing health services and should receive priority care for military attributable conditions, subject to the clinical need of others.

'The healthcare needs of veterans can be different from those of other patients in a number of ways'

Accreditation is very simple and includes Read coding the veteran on the GP computer system and having a clinical lead for veterans’ issues within the surgery. Once accredited, practices will receive an additional information pack to help with veterans’ healthcare. There will also be a training package. It is hoped that practices will then be able to assess veterans’ health needs more accurately and refer them to the appropriate services, in particular those set up for veterans, such as the NHS veterans’ trauma network or the NHS veterans’ mental health services.

On leaving the forces it is not uncommon for veterans to miss the structure, support and friendship that being in the forces can provide. Reliance on both formal and informal military structures and systems – could be a major barrier in the transition to civilian life. Transition to life outside the military is likely to be stressful. The healthcare needs of veterans can be different from those of other patients in a number of ways. Acknowledgement of this fact is a crucial first step in providing effective healthcare for veterans. Treatment of veterans may require some understanding of military life.

As a GP, how often do you ask your patients “have you ever served in the Armed Forces?”

For more information and to request accreditation please visit our webpage

 

 

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