GPs can sign up to become ‘veteran friendly’ under a new national scheme to improve medical care and treatment for former armed service members.
The programme, which has been backed by NHS England and the RCGP, requires practices to offer extra support for ex-military personnel, such as undertaking dedicated training, attending armed forces healthcare meetings and assigning a veteran lead in the practice.
NHS England’s Armed Forces Clinical Reference Group chair has called for every GP practice to sign up to the initiative.
The Military Veteran Aware Accreditation was initially developed by North Yorkshire GP Dr Mike Brookes, who served in Iraq, and developed the idea after a patient informed him that he had specifically joined the practice to see someone who would understand his needs as a veteran.
Dr Brookes said: ‘It made me reflect on a potential unmet need for our veterans. I could see how pivotal a GP practice could be at identifying ex-service personnel to help ensure they receive care and treatment that is considerate of their time in the armed forces.
‘It is great to think that a conversation with a patient at a GP practice in the Dales could lead to a national project to improve veterans’ health.’
But the scheme has now been adopted by NHS England and the RCGP as a nationwide initiative, which will be rolled out shortly, following a pilot taking place in the West Midlands, which currently has 90 GP practices signed up.
To become accredited practices need to:
- have a lead for veterans’ issues within the surgery
- identify and flag veterans on their computer system
- undertake dedicated training and attend armed forces healthcare meetings
- increase understanding of the health needs of veterans amongst both clinical and administrative staff
GP Dr Jonathan Leach, who served in the army for 25 years and chairs the NHS England Armed Forces Clinical Reference Group, has called for GPs across the country to sign up.
He said: ‘Our priority is to make sure that no matter where a veteran lives, in the country, they will have access to a GP who understands their military related health needs and supports them to get the right treatment and support.
‘We are therefore urging every GP practice to sign up to this important scheme.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Veterans often have unique health needs, and this new scheme is a fantastic way of ensuring that when they visit their GP, for whatever reason, these needs are flagged up, considered and accommodated.’
Back in 2010, the RCGP teamed up with the British Legion and charity Combat Stress to develop the ‘Meeting the Healthcare Needs of Veterans’ guide for GPs, which said that veterans’ health needs can be different from those of other patients as a result of their time in the services.