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NHS commits to highest level of care for forces veterans

12:00am | & Health

NHS leaders marked the centenary of Armistice Day with a commitment to specialist support for armed forces veterans across every part of the national healthcare organisation.

It will ensure that those who have served in the armed forces have the best possible experience of the NHS and get the best care, regardless of whether they get help from their GP, a hospital or a specialist service. The pledge comes as NHS England confirms that every part of the country now has dedicated mental health services up and running for veterans, and as NHS Improvement announces the first 25 hospitals to be accredited ‘Veteran Aware’.

Latest figures show nearly 5,000 ex-forces personnel have been referred to the new NHS ‘Transition, Intervention and Liaison’ service (TILS) since it was launched in April 2017, helping them settle into civilian life. It aims to tackle early signs of mental health difficulties and also includes substance misuse prevention and social support, such as help with employment, available to all veterans.

Meanwhile, the first NHS Trusts accredited as ‘Veteran Aware’ have been confirmed. UK armed forces veterans in those trust areas forces will be cared for by frontline staff trained to meet their specific needs, such as around mental health, and who can signpost veterans to local support services. ‘Veteran Aware’ trusts will display posters in their clinics and waiting areas, encouraging patients to notify staff that they have served in the armed forces.

NHS leaders are now calling on every NHS hospital and service to get accredited as Veteran Aware under the national scheme. Kate Davies OBE, NHS England’s Director of Armed Forces, said: “Our armed forces and our NHS are rightly a source of immense pride for our country, and we’re committed to delivering a health service fit for former troops and their families.

“Remembrance Day gives us the chance to reflect on those who have bravely fought for our country and offers an important opportunity to remind them that there is always help available. The NHS is committed to ensuring that every veteran gets the best possible care and thousands are now benefiting from early access to mental health support which evidence shows is more effective.”

Jeremy Marlow, from NHS Improvement and joint chairman of the Veterans Covenant Hospitals Alliance, said: “We must do everything we can to ensure the NHS continues to support those who have given so much to our country through the armed forces. Being Veteran Aware allows trusts to show they are doing that. As we mark the Armistice centenary and accredit the first 25 hospitals, we are calling on other trusts to apply to do the same.”

Meanwhile, the Government’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock commented: “We are incredibly proud of our Armed Forces and it’s our duty to ensure veterans receive the very best possible care for both their physical and mental health needs. Veteran Aware Hospitals will help provide integrated care and a single source of advice to veterans on the support available to them and I want to see this initiative rolled out across the country.”

Other steps taken to ensure veterans get the tailored care and support they need, include:

  • Over 100 GP surgeries are now ‘Veteran Friendly’ with more signing up as this rolled out across England
  • Nearly 300 people have used the NHS England complex veteran service, launched in April this year, for more severe mental health conditions, including treatment for PTSD.

There are around five million members of the Armed Forces community in the UK and around 15,000 people leave the service each year. Whilst the majority of these individuals are fit and healthy, there is a small minority who have mental and physical health needs.

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