Veteran friendly GP practices

British Armed Forces pin

We are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to accredit GP practices as 'veteran friendly'. This programme enables practice to deliver the best possible care and treatment for patients who have served in the armed forces.

Nearly 1,000 GP practices in England are already accredited through this programme. We support these practices to identify and code their veterans, and to appoint a clinical lead who undertakes training and other activities related to veteran healthcare.

We provide accredited practices with an information pack to help increase their understanding of the health needs of veterans, and the services available to them.

Become an accredited practice

Accreditation is voluntary, but is included in the key commitments of the NHS Long Term Plan, which states: ‘To ensure all GPs in England are equipped to best serve our veterans and their families, over the next five years we will roll out a veterans accreditation scheme in conjunction with the Royal College of GPs.’

Accreditation is currently open to GP practices in England. We are working with the Devolved Nations to extend the programme.

For more information, please email veterans@rcgp.org.uk.

The Veteran friendly accreditation

Accreditation lasts for three years, and practices must commit to the following:

  1. Ask patients registering with the surgery if they have ever served in the British Armed Forces.
  2. Code it on the GP computer system. We recommend writing it out rather than using Read codes as these vary according to which computer system is used. We recommend that the term 'Military Veteran' is used.
  3. Have a clinical lead for veterans in the surgery. This should be a registered health care professional, but not necessarily a GP – it could be a nurse or paramedic.
  4.  This clinical lead is required to undertake dedicated training, attend training events (RCGP or other provider), stay up to date with the latest research and innovations and ensure that the practice is meeting the health commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant. They should also be available to provide advice to colleagues, as well as possibly seeing veterans themselves.
  5. Eligible practices should have a CQC 'good' rating or higher.

Where appropriate, you may need to refer patients to dedicated NHS services such as the Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison service (TILS), the Veterans' Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS) and the Veterans Trauma Network.

To learn more about the experience of being a veteran friendly practice, listen to our podcast. In the podcast, RCGP clinical champion Dr Robin Simpson, accredited GP Dr Matthew Boulter and veteran Ashley Winter discuss the healthcare challenges faced by the veteran population in England and the impact of the accreditation scheme.

Prof Nigel Sparrow OBE, the CQC's former Senior National GP Advisor, signposts the programme in his best practice guidance: Take a look at  Nigel's surgery 93: Caring for veterans and their families.

How your accreditation helps veterans

As well as being supported to provide the best care to your veteran patients, you will be able to capture better epidemiological data to improve future health provision.

By becoming an accredited practice, you will also ensure that the NHS is better able to meet the health commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant. This states that 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 clinical need.

The veteran population

A veteran is someone who has served in the British Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve) for at least one day. Veterans also include any member of the Merchant Marine who has served in a war zone. This includes crew from convoys in World War 2 and more recently in the Falklands conflict and Gulf Wars.

There are around 2.4 million British Armed Forces Veterans in Great Britain, of whom 89% are male and 60% are aged 65 and over. Clinical commissioning groups are responsible for the commissioning of health services for veterans, reservists and service families registered with NHS GPs in their area. However, there is evidence that some GPs are unsure of how many of these individuals are registered with their practice and more guidance is needed on how to meet the health needs of these patient groups.

About 18,000 service people move back into civilian life every year. While most of these individuals have similar levels of health to the general population, around 2,000 leave on medical grounds. The top reasons for medical discharge are for issues relating to back, knees, mental health and hearing.

Veterans' healthcare toolkit

Our Veterans' healthcare toolkit provides guidance for GPs on how to deal with the healthcare needs of veterans who have served in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force and how best to help veterans who may have been affected by their service careers.

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