GP practices have been urged to sign up to a support programme for veterans, as news around current conflicts may be especially triggering.
NHS England and the RCGP have warned that news around current conflicts is likely to make Remembrance Day this year particularly triggering for England’s 1.74 million military veterans.
Practices were encouraged to sign up to the ‘Veteran Friendly Accreditation scheme’ which provides ‘a process for identifying, understanding and supporting veterans’ and referring them to specialist physical and mental healthcare services.
More than 2,300 GP practices have already signed up to the programme, according to NHS England.
RCGP veterans clinical champion Dr Emily Brookes said: ‘While most veterans leave the Armed Forces without any issue, we know that some may struggle with health issues stemming from their service and face difficulties transitioning to civilian life.
‘We also understand that some veterans are reluctant to share their health issues or military status with healthcare professionals as they feel their experiences and conditions may not be understood.
‘This Remembrance Day, I would encourage all practices to sign up to become Veteran Friendly in order to support their patients who have served in the Armed Forces.’
Dr Simon James, a GP at Christchurch Medical Practice, near Bournemouth, said he has seen a beneficial impact on the care the practice provides to veteran patients thanks to the programme.
He said: ‘Staff have an increased awareness and empathy for veterans and the issues they may face. We have been able to increase our identification of patients who are veterans, and it has encouraged us to utilise resources and the appropriate specialist services available to support them.
‘This has led to reduced waiting times for diagnosis and treatments for conditions and important interventions have been made to support our veteran patients.’
NHS England director of health and justice and armed forces Kate Davies said: ‘In 2021, we committed to providing an additional £18 million for veteran health services, over three years, which includes improving access to specialist mental and physical health care and support as well as working with the RCGP to support GP practices to become “veteran friendly”.
‘We are delighted that over 77% of PCNs have at least one GP practice in their area accredited, with an overall 2,300+ GP practices already signed up to this scheme, and we’d encourage others to do the same – it really does make a difference to improving care.’
In September, the Government urged ex-forces personnel to identify themselves as veterans with their GP so that they can receive appropriate care.
Following the Queen’s death last year, GPs were told her death was ‘of particular significance to the Armed Forces community and has the potential to trigger mental health issues within that community’ and NHS staff should familiarise themselves with referral pathways to veterans’ mental health and wellbeing service Op COURAGE.