GP practices are being encouraged to become ‘veteran friendly accredited’, after a study identified ‘many positive outcomes’ from the often nurse-led scheme.
The University of Chester evaluation of 225 accredited practices found 84% now have a better understanding of how to meet veterans’ health needs and 72% believe the programme has already benefited their veteran patients, with 99% recommending the scheme.
It comes following a warning from mental health charity Combat Stress that media coverage surrounding the invasion of Ukraine could ‘re-traumatise’ some veterans, trigger difficult thoughts and feelings, and worsen conditions such as PTSD.
More than 1,300 GP practices have already signed up to the Veteran Friendly Accreditation Scheme, which has been developed by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) as part of an NHS 10-year plan to improve veteran engagement with primary healthcare providers.
Accredited practices appoint a clinical lead – often a nurse – who receives training and support to aid their understanding of the health needs of veterans, and the services available to them.
The University of Chester report said: ‘Veteran healthcare has proved difficult to manage as veterans are often reticent to seek help. This may be confounded by the historical narrative that NHS services have been ill-equipped to meet the needs of veterans.’
But it added: ‘The results clearly indicate that the accreditation programme has been of meaningful benefit to veterans… GP practices are better able to understand veterans’ needs and have a greater awareness of how to meet them.’
Professor of nursing and military mental Health at the University of Chester, Alan Finnegan, led the evaluation, which he said had ‘demonstrated very encouraging results’.
He continued: ‘We found the programme, which leads to improved knowledge of veteran specific secondary and tertiary services and of the priority referral pathway, is beneficial to veterans and their families.’
The study, funded by NHS England, concluded ‘there is clear evidence regarding the benefits of this programme to warrant continuation of the project and further funding.’
It comes after the Government’s Veterans Strategy Action Plan, published in January this year, committed to making the UK ‘the best place in the world to be a veteran by 2028’, leading to a new £0.5m grant for further research to better understand veterans’ needs.
Dr (Brigadier Retired) Robin Simpson, RCGP clinical champion for veterans, said: ‘With the situation in Ukraine increasing the need some veterans will have for support, and the Government’s new Veterans Strategy Action Plan committing to making the UK ‘the best place in the world to be a veteran’ by 2028, there has never been a more important time for practices to become Veteran Friendly Accredited.’