COMMENT: GPs need to be more aware of vets’ needs   

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Civvy street can be a daunting place for ex-service personnel. For those veterans who may be suffering mental health issues as a result of what they went through while in the military, it is even harder.

The worry is that they don’t seek the right help and instead suffer alone, unable to exorcise their psychological demons. In extreme circumstances, some feel the only way out of their torment is to commit suicide.

So how can society provide better support for the men and women struggling to adapt to life out of uniform? How can we ensure they access the necessary healthcare?

It’s encouraging for us to report today how a new national scheme, whereby GP surgeries are encouraged to become more ‘veteran-friendly’, has started its roll-out across the Portsmouth area.

Practices can qualify for the new status by offering extra support for veterans and recognising they may have different needs to other patients.  

The scheme, backed by NHS England and the Royal College of GPs, includes training GPs to understand military terminology and be aware of veterans’ experiences and their lasting impact.

It’s voluntary, but we think all GP surgeries should sign up – particularly in the Portsmouth area with its long military history and high concentration of ex-navy and army personnel.  

Dr Elizabeth Fellows, chairman of NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing board, says: ‘It’s important for our society to recognise that ex-forces personnel may have additional needs when accessing healthcare.’

She’s absolutely right and we give our backing to anything that can help veterans suffering with mental health issues to find the right support. Increasing understanding among GPs is vital as surgeries are likely to be their initial access point to the healthcare system.