More GPs to Become ‘Veteran Friendly’

A national scheme, backed by NHS England and the Royal College of GPs, is being rolled out to improve the medical support available to former members of the Armed Forces.

The Military Veteran Aware Accreditation is for GP practices offering extra support for ex-military Personnel who may face additional challenges when returning to civilian life. Each participating GP practice has a lead for veterans’ issues, who undertakes dedicated training and attends Armed Forces healthcare meetings.

The scheme was the idea of Dr Mike Brookes, a North Yorkshire GP who served in Iraq, after a patient said he joined his practice as he wanted a doctor who understood veterans’ needs.

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.”

While healthcare for veterans is already prioritised, the NHS wants to improve the way veterans are registered with their GPs, and raise awareness of the dedicated help available to them. The nationwide rollout will be phased in, and follows a successful pilot in the West Midlands, where 90 GP practices have already signed up.

Dr Jonathan Leach, a GP who served in the Army for 25 years and chairs the NHS England Armed Forces Clinical Reference Group, said: “We are committed to providing veterans with a seamless, high quality service when it comes to their health needs. 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.”

The OA understands the importance of veterans’ accessing the right healthcare. Our Benevolence Team dealt with 1,107 cases in the last year, with many involving former officers and their dependants with health issues. We also work closely with other charities, because beneficiaries’ needs can often be complex, requiring the support of multiple organisations.

Nigel Hare, Operations Director at the OA, said: “Ensuring veterans access the right healthcare services is vital in helping them to have fulfilling and independent lives. I welcome this scheme, which will lead to more GPs understanding the veteran community.”

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