NHS leaders commit to specialist health support for veterans in every part of NHS

NHS leaders have confirmed today that specialist health support for veterans will be available in every part of the health service, across the country.

The commitment will ensure that those who have served in the armed forces have the best possible experience of the NHS and get the best care, regardless of whether they get help from their GP, a hospital or a specialist service.

The pledge comes as NHS England has confirmed that every part of the country now has dedicated mental health services up and running for veterans and as NHS Improvement announces the first 25 hospitals to become ‘Veteran Aware’.

Latest figures show that nearly 5,000 ex-personnel have been referred to the new NHS ‘Transition, Intervention and Liaison’ service (TILS) since it was launched in April 2017, which helps them settle back into civilian life. The service aims to tackle early signs of mental health difficulties and also includes substance misuse prevention and social support such as help with employment, available to all veterans.

Alongside the TILS service the first trusts to be accredited as ‘Veteran Aware’ have been confirmed, which means patients who have served in the UK armed forces will be cared for by frontline staff who have received training and education on their specific needs, such as around mental health, and who can signpost them to local support services. Trusts that have been accredited will display posters in their clinics and waiting areas, encouraging patients to notify staff that they have served in the armed forces.

In the run up to the Armistice centenary, NHS leaders are calling on every NHS hospital and service to get accredited as ‘Veteran Aware’ under the national scheme.

Kate Davies OBE, NHS England’s Director of Armed Forces said: “Our armed forces and our NHS are rightly a source of immense pride for our country, and we’re committed to delivering a health service fit for former troops and their families.

“Remembrance Day gives us the chance to reflect on those who have bravely fought for our country and offers an important opportunity to remind them that there is always help available.

“The NHS is committed to ensuring that every veteran gets the best possible care and thousands are now benefiting from early access to mental health support which evidence shows is more effective. Ahead of the publication of the long term plan later this year, today’s commitments will ensure that ex-Armed Forces get the specialist care and support they need, while having the best possible experience of the NHS, no matter which service they use.”

Jeremy Marlow, Executive Director of Operational Productivity at NHS Improvement and Co-Chair of the Veterans Covenant Hospitals Alliance, said: “We must do everything we can to ensure the NHS continues to support those who have given so much to our country through the armed forces. Being ‘Veteran Aware’ allows trusts to show that they are doing that.

“As we mark the Armistice centenary and accredit the first 25 hospitals, we are calling on other trusts to apply to do the same. In doing so, we will work towards ending the variation in access to local services for veterans.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are incredibly proud of our Armed Forces and it’s our duty to ensure veterans receive the very best possible care for both their physical and mental health needs.

“Veteran Aware Hospitals will help provide integrated care and a single source of advice to veterans on the support available to them and I want to see this initiative rolled out across the country.”

Other steps taken to ensure veterans get the tailored care and support they need, include:

  • Over 100 GP surgeries are now ‘Veteran Friendly’ with more signing up as this rolled out across England
  • Nearly 300 people have used the NHS England complex veteran service for more severe mental health conditions including treatment for PTSD which was launched in April 2018

There are around five million members of the Armed Forces community in the UK and around 15,000 people leave the service each year. Whilst the majority of these individuals are fit and healthy, there are a small minority who have mental and physical health needs.