NHS England commissions a number of dedicated services and funds a range of initiatives to support the health and wellbeing needs of the Armed Forces community.
- Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service
- Op RESTORE: The Veterans Physical Health and Wellbeing Service
- Veteran friendly GP practice accreditation
- Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance – veteran aware accreditation for NHS trusts
- Step into Health
- Veterans Prosthetics Panel
Op COURAGE is the umbrella term for dedicated mental health services for individuals leaving the Armed Forces, veterans, and reservists. Op COURAGE was previously commissioned as three services, the Veterans Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS), the Veterans Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS) and the Veterans Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS).
From 1 April 2023 these services are provided as a single service – Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service – by regional provider collaboratives. Each lead provider works in partnership with a range of organisations, including charities, to offer a holistic range of mental health care and treatment that is tailored for those accessing the service.
Lead providers for each region are:
- North of England – Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
- Midlands – Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Trust
- East of England – Essex Partnership University NHS Trust
- London – Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust
- South East – Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
- South West – Avon and Wiltshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Whilst this service is nationally commissioned by NHS England, it is vital that ICBs and clinicians are aware of Op COURAGE so they can support timely referrals. Individuals can self-refer or ask someone else, such as a GP, charity, family member or friend to do this for them.
Further information can be found here: www.nhs.uk/opcourage
Op RESTORE: The Veterans Physical Health and Wellbeing Service provides specialist care and support to veterans who have physical health problems as a result of their time in the Armed Forces.
Op RESTORE uses a network of clinicians across England who have a military background and/or understanding of the military who work closely with:
- GP practices
- specialist NHS services such as Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service
- military and non-military charities and organisations
Op RESTORE can support veterans regardless of when their Service related physical health problem first appeared and no matter when they left the Armed Forces. It can also help their family access appropriate support services.
Access to the Op RESTORE is via GP referral only. Referrals should be made by emailing email@example.com
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) veteran friendly practice accreditation programme is designed to help GP practices provide better care for veterans. The programme is supported by NHS England, with the programme helping to fulfil the NHS commitment towards the Armed Forces Covenant, whereby veterans should face no disadvantage because of their military service.
For practices to be accredited as veteran friendly, they must provide evidence that they are supportive of veterans’ healthcare and work towards improving identification and understanding of their needs, in addition to referral to dedicated veteran services and treatments where appropriate. To become accredited, practices must commit to:
- asking patients registering with the surgery if they have ever served in the British Armed Forces
- coding veterans on the GP computer system using the term ‘Military Veteran’
- having a clinical lead on veterans in the surgery
- the clinical lead keeping up-to-date with the latest training, knowledge and thinking, which is delivered online via email by the RCGP as part of the free programme. They should also be available to provide advice to colleagues, and to support veterans directly when needed.
- have a CQC ‘good’ rating or higher.
The Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA) is a group of NHS acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts that have volunteered to be exemplars of the best care and support to the Armed Forces community. These trusts are expected to meet the following requirements to be accredited as ‘veteran aware’:
- The trust understands and is compliant with the Armed Forces Covenant.
- The trust has a clearly designated Veterans’ Champion Dyad.
- The trust supports the UK Armed Forces as an employer.
- The trust has established links to appropriate nearby veteran services.
- Staff at the trust are trained and educated in the needs of veterans.
- The trust raises awareness of veterans.
- The trust identifies veterans to ensure they receive appropriate care.
- The trust will refer veterans to other services as appropriate.
The aim of the VCHA is to improve the quality and experience of care for the Armed Forces community by identifying them at the earliest opportunity, acknowledging their Service, and understanding how it may impact their health and how their needs can be best met.
The VCHA is funded by NHS England and managed by a team within the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital NHS Trust. For more information, visit the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance website.
The Step into Health programme encourages NHS organisations to recruit members of the Armed Forces community. Supported by NHS England, Walking with the Wounded and The Royal Foundation, it helps NHS organisations benefit from the transferable skills and values that the Armed Forces community bring into the workplace, along with raising awareness of the barriers into employment which they may face.
In line with the NHS People Plan and the People Promise, the programme works with NHS organisations to help them diversify their workforce and offer guidance on how they can become more inclusive recruiters.
Organisations pledging to Step into Health make a public commitment to support the recruitment of members of the Armed Forces community into the NHS. There are five mandatory pledges that organisations are required to commit to. These are:
- reviewing recruitment practices and removing any barriers to recruiting members of the Armed Forces community
- sharing dedicated Step into Health contact details
- building a relationship with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP)
- using the Step into Health branding to promote consistent messages about the programme
- using the Step into Health candidate system to record interactions with potential candidates and to refer between NHS organisations as required
Further information is available as follows:
Veterans Prosthetics Panel
Veterans who have Service attributable limb loss can access funding for high-quality prosthetics. The Veterans Prosthetics Panel provides funding on a named veteran basis to NHS Disablement Service Centers (DSCs) to ensure that veterans who have Service-related limb loss can access high quality prosthetics regardless of which DSC they attend.
DSCs are required to make applications on behalf of veterans, which must be accompanied by proof of Service attributable limb loss. GPs can make referrals to DSC through the normal referral process.