Scheme to help GPs become '˜veteran friendly' rolls-out in Portsmouth

A NEW scheme urging GP surgeries to become '˜veteran friendly' as part of a national initiative has started its roll-out across the Portsmouth area.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 5:51 pm
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 5:55 pm

Practices can qualify for the new status by offering extra support for ex-military personnel struggling to adjust to civilian life or who may need extra support.

Health chiefs at NHS England and the Royal College of GPs have backed the scheme, which will see GPs being provided additional training to understand military terms and how to provide better support for veterans.

Dr Elizabeth Fellows, chairman of NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group's governing board, urged GPs to join the service.

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She said: '˜It's important for our society to recognise that ex-forces personnel may have additional needs when accessing healthcare.

'˜Former members of the armed services community can have particular issues as a result of service to their country '“ which we as GPs need to know about. This initiative supports our ability as healthcare professionals to recognise those individuals and have awareness of any healthcare needs related to their military service. 

'˜Locally, our work in this area continues to increase and I very much hope that all GP practices will sign up to the scheme, especially with our city being famed for its long military history. 

'˜Over the last few years, GP practices have worked hard to identify veterans so that they are able to offer them the additional support available across the city. We have worked hard to improve the health services, particularly mental health services to support our ex-forces personnel.'

The scheme was the brainchild of Dr Mike Brookes, a GP who served in Iraq.

He started the idea after a patient told him that he had specifically joined his practice to see someone who could understand his needs as a veteran.

Dr Brookes said: '˜It made me reflect on a potential unmet need for our veterans. I could see how pivotal a GP practice could be at identifying ex-service personnel to help ensure they receive care and treatment that is considerate of their time in the armed forces.'

The expansion into Hampshire follows a successful pilot in the West Midlands, where 90 GP practices have signed up so far.

It comes months after a shake-up of the NHS's veterans' mental health complex treatment service in April, led by retired army Colonel Dr Johnathan Leach, who used to be based in Gosport.

Dr Leach said the new service would be key in supporting those veterans battling mental health. He added: '˜The vast majority of veterans are absolutely fine, they don't have mental health problems and they're the same as everybody else. 

'˜But obviously there is a small sub-group who need additional help and this is part of that.'

To join the scheme, GP practices need to appoint a lead for veterans within the surgery, identify and flag up veterans on their computer systems, tackle training and attend armed forces healthcare meetings.