This is how Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth is supporting the armed forces and veterans
Health reporter MILLIE SALKELD looks at what the Armed Forces Covenant means to veterans and health services in our area.
Dedicated support events, specialist nurses and enhanced amputee rehabilitation service are just some of the measures put in place by the city’s hospital as part of its bid to look after veterans and service personnel.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital, signed the Armed Forces Covenant in November 2018.
The trust has since earned Silver Veteran Aware Status for staff members’ dedication to provide the best care for veterans and their families.
Eye department senior clinical manager Keith Malcolm has been appointed as the Armed Forces Covenant lead nurse.
He is focused on supporting the military community and has spent time networking, attending events and creating links with local clinical commissioning groups, other hospitals and ambulance services to raise awareness.
Keith spent almost 15 years in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service, including serving in the Iraq conflict.
He said: ‘I feel that those who need help and support don’t always know help is out there, and my role is to educate trust staff about support available so that they know what to offer.
‘I also encourage stakeholders to be veteran aware accredited.
‘This includes GPs, the police, and more. The criteria is straightforward to meet.
‘Being Armed Forces Covenant and Veteran Aware accredited and creating my new role demonstrates PHT’s commitment to those who serve and have served.’
Since a training programme, the trust has tripled the number of veterans it knows about.
Keith added: ‘We can only offer support if we know someone is a veteran or ex-military, so we encourage any and all patients to notify us on attendance to the hospital.’
Cake, camaraderie and companionship events offer the chance for current and former members of the armed forces to share sweet treats, meet new people and feel supported by connecting with support organisations that attend.
Veteran and QA patient research ambassador Simon Brain attends the monthly events.
The 53-year-old said: ‘My 30-year career as a sergeant in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers came to an end after I was medically discharged from the Ministry of Defence due to a stroke, which was a life changing experience.
‘These events that I attend offer so much more than just coffee, cake and companionship.
‘The support has been a great help to me, and I really enjoy going along to them and meeting new people.’
At the St Mary’s community campus in Milton, there is an expert mesothelioma nurse specialist in place to care solely for veteran patients and their needs.
There is also the Portsmouth Enablement Centre, which provides a regional prosthetic service to people in Portsmouth, Southampton, the wider Hampshire area and some areas of West Sussex.
A veterans room has a range of state-of-the art equipment to help with the rehabilitation of those who have undergone amputations. The centre provides an enhanced service for those injured in the line of duty.
Since January last year, a case support worker from the Defence Medical Welfare Service charity has worked on site for four days a week seeing veteran inpatients, assessing their needs and referring them where necessary.
Another member of PHT staff who sees the positive impact of the Veteran Aware status is Sherry McBain, who works at the Princess Mary’s RAF Nursing Service, which is a nursing branch of the British Royal Air Force based at PHT.
She said: ‘As a local resident, a current member of military staff at PHT and a family member of local Military Veterans, I am proud that PHT are committed to the Armed Forces Covenant.
‘Knowing that in the future I can tell frontline PHT staff that I am a military veteran and that this would initiate me receiving the right support at the right time from the right agencies fills me with reassurance. It also reduces any fear of leaving the services.
‘It’s not just a nice thing for the PHT to do, it could be the difference between life and death.’
The team is continuing to work together towards Gold Veteran Aware Status.
Lois Howell, director of governance and risk, added: ‘We are really proud of our accreditation as a Veteran Aware hospital, and we have made great strides in the last year to help ensure that we can identify and meet the needs of our veteran patients, carers and colleagues.
‘We’ve been able to review and revise all our relevant policies, and we’ve trained significant numbers of our staff to help them support members of the armed forces family.
‘I’m delighted that we are entering our second year of accreditation with a new, permanent member of staff in the Patient Experience team now focused on how we can provide more tailored care and assistance to the veterans in our hospital community.’