Practice managers are being encouraged to sign up to a free accreditation scheme that helps practices identify and better support patients who have served in the Armed Forces.
The initiative, launched by the RCGP in partnership with NHS England, was developed to prevent veterans slipping under the radar when it comes to addressing their specific and unique health needs.
Evidence suggests veterans may be reluctant to discuss health problems or seek help from clinicians, particularly if they feel they will not be understood, the RCGP said.
Around 52% of the estimated 2 million veterans in the UK have a long-term illness, disability, or infirmity, surpassing the average rate of 35% in the general adult population, a recent study shows. They are also more likely to have higher rates of common mental health disorders, including alcohol misuse. In addition, 12% experience probable PTSD.
And though it’s likely that the average GP sees a veteran patient every day, previous research has suggested that 47% of practices may be unaware of how many of their patients they see are ex-Armed Forces.
To coincide with Remembrance Day today, practice managers are being urged to sign up to the Veteran Friendly GP Practice accreditation scheme, so they are better equipped to deliver the best possible care and treatment for these patients.
Once accredited, practices are required to appoint a clinical lead for veterans. Teams are given support to help code patients who have served in the Armed Forces as ‘Military Veterans’. They are also provided with free training content to increase their understanding of veterans’ health needs and advice/information on making referrals and services available.
Additionally, practices receive promotional materials to help them advertise their veteran-friendly status.
There are currently over 1,500 practices signed up to the scheme, of which 99% would recommend accreditation to other practices, said a study by the University of Chester. It found that the programme was effective in supporting veterans and increasing the confidence of practice staff.
In many cases, the scheme is driven forward by practice managers, says the RCGP. They can play a lead role in coordinating their practice’s involvement.
Practice manager Lisa Fall at accredited practice Atrium Health Centre in Dorset, spoke of the merits of the scheme for both staff and patients and their families, also describing it as a straightforward process to go through.
She said: ‘As they are now coded on our system – made easy by the RCGP scheme – we are very aware of how many veterans we have registered with our practice and our clinicians have a better understanding of what additional support and treatment they can refer patients on to, such as OP Courage and the Veterans Trauma Network.’
She added: ‘Patients feel supported and are impressed that we are accredited. On Remembrance Day, I would really encourage practices to sign up to show support for veteran patients.’
Practices can find out more about the free scheme at https://www.rcgp.org.uk/veterans