A new study by the University of Chester has revealed that the “Veteran Friendly GP Practice” accreditation scheme has led to better healthcare for veterans as the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and NHS England urge GP practices to join the initiative.
The study shows that 99% of accredited practices would recommend the scheme; 84% now have a better understanding of how to meet veterans’ health needs and 72% believe the programme has already benefitted their patients.
The research follows a warning from a mental health charity for veterans that media coverage surrounding the current political climate in Eastern Europe could re-traumatise some veterans and trigger difficult thoughts and feelings.
Dr (Colonel Retired) Jonathan Leach OBE, NHS England Associate Medical Director for Armed Forces and Veterans Health, said: “The need for veteran-friendly GP practices, which provide the best possible care and treatment for patients who have served in the Armed Forces, is even more pressing with reports that media coverage of Ukraine can trigger mental health issues amongst veterans.”
He added: “Accreditation to the scheme, which is voluntary and includes having a clinical lead for veterans in the surgery, is part of our commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan to ensure all GPs in England are equipped to best serve our veterans and their families.”
It is believed around 12% of veterans experience probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more than half (52%) may have a long-term illness, disability, or infirmity, yet studies suggest that veterans are less likely to seek help if they feel their healthcare professional might not understand.
With more than 1,300 GP practices already signed up to the accreditation scheme combined with the government’s new Veterans Strategy Action Plan aiming to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran by 2028, veteran healthcare is evolving.
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.”
He added: “On average, most practices will see a veteran patient every day and this free and quick-to-implement programme is set up to make it easier to identify, understand, support and refer any patients that might be struggling at this challenging time.”
He concluded: “We know that the impact of service is not always obvious and that’s why it’s so important to have a proven process that makes it easier for veterans to access help. This scheme gives clinicians the opportunity and support to lead their practice in an area that has been identified as a national priority - and this evaluation clearly demonstrates the scheme's effectiveness.”
Click here for more information about the programme, whilst access to the study itself can be found here.