Veteran Friendly Practice Accreditation more important than ever this Remembrance Day

With this Remembrance Day likely to be particularly challenging for veterans, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is reminding primary care teams of the benefits of the Veteran Friendly GP Practice accreditation scheme.

The scheme, which has already accredited nearly 1,100 practices, ensures GPs have the information and resources to identify and support their veteran patients.

There are approximately 2.2 million veterans in England and, while their healthcare needs can in some cases be quite different from those of other patients¹, research suggests that around half of practices don’t know how many veterans they have² – simply because they aren’t aware of the process to capture this.

Accredited practices receive information, training and support to help increase their understanding of the health needs of veterans, and the services available to them – 99% of accredited practices say they would recommend the scheme to others.

Following the recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, this Remembrance Day (11 November) could be particularly challenging for some veterans³, yet studies suggest veterans may be less likely to seek help if they feel others won’t understand¹. Being accredited as a Veteran Friendly GP practice is a good way for practices to signal to ex-forces patients that they will be given the support they need.

The Armed Forces Covenant⁴ is a promise by the nation that those who serve and have served, and their families, should be treated fairly and by healthcare professionals that understand the Armed Forces culture. This includes ensuring veterans receive priority treatment for a condition which relates to their service, subject to clinical need. By taking part in the scheme and appointing a specially-trained clinical lead for veteran healthcare, GP practices can support this.

Brigadier Robin Simpson, an NHS GP and RCGP Clinical Champion for Veterans Healthcare, said: “We know that veterans don’t tend to tell healthcare professionals they are veterans, unless you ask them. It is critical then that we ask our patients, ‘have you served in the UK Armed Forces?’, to ensure we can accurately diagnose any health conditions and where appropriate, refer them to specialist services and treatment pathways.  This is important in ensuring they feel supported for their service. The process for becoming Veteran Friendly accredited is quick and simple and sends a really powerful message to your veteran patients that you understand. That will make such a difference to them – take it from me.”

Veteran, Ashlee Manning, who now works as a Social Prescriber and GP Link worker, added: “As a veteran, I found re-adjusting into civilian life difficult. Having your service acknowledged and that context informing how you are treated by your GP practice, can make such a difference in finding your feet in civilian life. I’d urge GP practices to sign-up – the benefits to your patients and practice will be significant.”

GP practices can find out more and complete a simple sign-up form at: http://rcgp.org.uk/veterans

To find out more about the Armed Forces Covenant, click here.