Are you a Military Veteran? Have you ever served in the Armed Forces?
A veteran is someone who has served in the British Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve) for at least one day. Veterans also include any member of the Merchant Marine who has served in a war zone.
This includes crew from convoys in World War 2 and more recently in the Falklands conflict and Gulf Wars.
There are around 2.4 million British Armed Forces Veterans in Great Britain, of whom 89% are male and 60% are aged 65 and over.
About 18,000 service people move back into civilian life every year. While most of these individuals have similar levels of health to the general population, around 2,000 leave on medical grounds. The top reasons for medical discharge are for issues relating to back, knees, mental health and hearing.
There are dedicated NHS services where veterans can be referred into if needed.
If you have not already informed the practice that you are a military veteran please contact us so we can add this to your medical record.
There are a number of charities dedicated to helping veterans:
Combat Stress - https://combatstress.org.uk/
Help for Heroes - https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/
Royal British Legion - https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/
Top tips for veterans
How to get the most from your GP
- It is important to register with a GP, rather than wait until you need treatment. Visit the NHS website at www.nhs.uk to find details of GP practices in your local area.
- If you’ve recently left the forces, it is important to give your GP the paperwork that your military medical centre gave you, including any medical records. This will help to make sure your military health record transfers to your NHS health record. This will also give your GP information on your health and ensure that any ongoing care and treatment is continued.
- Regardless of when you left the military, tell your GP that you’ve served in the UK Armed Forces. This will help your GP to better understand any military related health conditions that you may have and ensure that you are referred, where appropriate, to dedicated services for veterans.
This includes the specialist mental and physical health services, Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service and the Veterans Trauma Network.
When using these services, you will be able to speak to people who:
With your agreement, it can sometimes be helpful for your doctor to refer you to Armed Forces charities, such as SSAFA, the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress or Help for Heroes. They can often offer significant help and support, even if they do not all deliver healthcare.
You may be worried about sharing information about your time in the Armed Forces. Please note that the NHS is bound by a confidentiality code of practice to ensure GPs, nurses and other people working within the NHS deliver a confidential service bound by law.
- understand the Armed Forces and military life
- are either from the Armed Forces community or highly experienced in working with serving personnel, reservists, veterans and their families
- will work with you to make sure you get the right type of specialist care, support, and treatment
- work closely with a range of organisations and charities, including military charities, to support your wider health and wellbeing needs.
Patient charter: our commitment to you as a veteran of the UK Armed Forces
The NHS is here to help improve your health and wellbeing and keep you mentally and physically well. It is also here to help you get better when you are ill and, when you cannot fully recover, to stay as well as you can until the end of your life.
This means that you can expect the following from our practice:
- We will ask all patients if they have served in the UK Armed Forces (as a regular or reservist). If you have, we will note this in your medical record, with your permission.
- We will ask you to share details of your time in service to help us to assess the best support and treatment for you.
- The information you share will be kept confidential and we will always speak to you before sharing this with other services you may be referred to.
- You can make an appointment to see our clinical lead for veteran’s health. This person has a comprehensive understanding of the Armed Forces, health conditions linked to service, and the dedicated support you can access.
- The NHS has a duty to support the health commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant. This means that you will get priority treatment for any medical condition which has been caused by your service, subject to the clinical needs of other patients.
- We will let you know what choices are available for your care and treatment and help you to make informed decisions on what to do.
- Where appropriate and with your consent, we can refer you to dedicated veterans health services.
- If you need to be seen by another service, we will let them know you’re a veteran and make sure they have an understanding of your health and wellbeing needs, so you don’t have to keep repeating your ‘personal story’.
- We can give advice and support to your loved ones who may be affected by your health conditions.
- We will investigate any issues and complaints that you may have about your care. If you have any concerns about the services we offer, please speak to one of the practice team.
To find out more, please speak to our practice manager or one of our GPs or nurses.
If you would like to provide feedback on how we are performing as a veteran friendly GP practice, please let a member of our staff know or you can send your comments to the Royal College of General Practitioners at Veterans@rcgp.org.uk
For information on health services for the Armed Forces community, please visit the NHS website at www.nhs.uk/armedforceshealth Twitter @NHSArmedForces
NHS Armed Forces Health Podcast
This six-episode series has been commissioned by the Armed Forces Public Patient Voice Group (AFPPVG).
The aim is to support the armed forces community to understand and navigate the NHS as well as empowering them to become advocates for their own health as a patient or family member of one. The guests are AFPPVG members who have given their time to pass on their expertise and experiences to help others.
The series, which can be downloaded through all podcast apps and channels, covers the following themes: what is the AFPPVG?, military medical experience and leaving, your GP, physical health, mental health, family and children.