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'Veteran friendly' GP scheme to roll-out nationwide

Scheme will support former military personnel

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

GPs are signing up to become “veteran friendly” under a new national scheme to improve medical care for former members of the armed services.

Practices can qualify for “veteran friendly” status by offering extra support for ex-military personnel who may face additional challenges when they return to civilian life.

Dr Mike Brookes, a North Yorkshire GP who served in Iraq, came up with the idea when a patient told him that he had specifically joined his practice to see someone who could understand his needs as a veteran.

The scheme, called the "Military Veteran Aware Accreditation", has now been adopted by NHS England and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) as a nationwide initiative so that family doctors can better identify and treat veterans, ensuring they get access to dedicated care where appropriate.

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.”

The expansion follows a successful pilot in the West Midlands – initiated by the RCGP Midlands faculty – where 90 GP practices have signed up so far. The nationwide rollout will be a phased approach.

To become accredited, GP 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.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP 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.”

Dr Jonathan Leach, a GP, who served in the army for 25 years and chairs the NHS England Armed Forces Clinical Reference Group, is calling for GPs across the country to sign up.

“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.”

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