The Military Veteran Aware Accreditation programme seeks to improve medical care and treatment for former members of the armed services by encouraging GP practices to offer additional support for ex-servicemen and women who may be struggling to return to civilian life.
Practices can qualify for ‘veteran-friendly status’ by training both clinical and administrative staff to identify and understand the health needs of veterans. Practices must also have a lead for veterans’ issues within the surgery and be able to flag potentially vulnerable ex-military personnel on their computer systems.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard 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 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.
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.’
Some 90 GP practices have already signed up to the programme, which is currently being expanded following a successful pilot in the West Midlands.
Professor Stokes-Lampard added: ‘It’s great to see successful local initiatives being rolled out nationally so that they can benefit patients across the country. I’m incredibly proud of the college’s Midland Faculty, of which I am a member, for identifying a good idea, turning it into reality and taking the lead on this.’
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.’