This Armistice Day, we are proud to announce that the Somerset health and care system has come together to work on a project to ensure that the system is focused on meeting the needs of veterans and the Armed Forces community in the county.
“The healthcare needs of veterans can be different from other patients. Veterans may have physical and mental health issues stemming from training, operations, or combat. Some may have vulnerabilities that may have existed before they joined up. There is growing evidence that some mental health conditions can appear, for some veterans, some years after leaving the Armed Forces.
“Service families experience unique pressures on family life. As well as often having one parent deployed abroad for months at a time, many service families move house every two to three years. They should not be disadvantaged by needing to re-register with GP services, losing their place on hospital waiting lists or having their care interrupted.
“This project involves a partnership of health and social care organisations across Somerset. It aims to support veterans and their families after the transition to civilian life and provide better access to a range health and social care. We want to commission services that fit their needs and we want to make services easy to access across the Somerset health and social care system.”
The group has drawn up Nine Commitments to ensure that the Somerset system works together to honour the promises made in the Armed Forces Covenant, the 2021 Armed Forces Bill, the NHS Long Term Plan and the corresponding document, Healthcare for the Armed Forces Community: a forward view. The Nine Commitments are:
- Working in Partnership to commission safe, high-quality care for serving personnel and their families.
- Supporting families, carers, children, and young people in the Armed Forces community
- Helping the transition from the Armed Forces to civilian life.
- Identifying and supporting Armed Forces veterans
- Improving veterans’ and their families’ mental health
- Supporting veterans in the criminal justice system.
- Identifying and addressing inequalities in access to healthcare.
- Using data and technology to improve services
- Driving research and innovation in Armed Forces healthcare
Over the next 12 to 18 months Somerset’s health and care system will take the following steps:
- Raise awareness of the needs of Armed Forces families and veterans in all mainstream mental health services and establish ‘Open Mental Health’, to be the ‘front door’ for Veterans and serving member’s families to access support.
- Raise greater awareness of the potential holistic needs of Armed Forces families and the range of services that are available for them.
- Engage with veterans to better understand what would help in their transition back to civilian life.
- Deliver an online live directory of services for health and social care specific to Somerset (including voluntary and community provision).
- Expand the number of Veteran Friendly Practices in Primary Care (currently five) to at least one in every Primary Care Network.
- Support all partners in Somerset’s Integrated Care System, (Somerset CCG, Somerset FT, YDH, SW Ambulance Service Trust and SCC), to achieve ‘Gold Status’ of the Defence Employers’ Recognition Scheme.
- Ensure family members moving to Somerset maintain their position on any healthcare waiting list (recognising the number of days/weeks already waited).
- Ensure GPs, at registration, asks: “are you a veteran or the spouse of a veteran? so that their military medical record can be accessed, and their status recorded in clinical notes for onward referrals.
- Develop a Somerset Veterans Wellbeing Hub. This will be a one-stop-shop to better coordinate the services available, share best practice and champion the interests of the Armed Forces community.
- Adopt the Step Into Health (NHS), and Somerset County Council’s similar scheme that guarantees for all suitably qualified veterans an interview for all health and social care posts.
The range of local support includes:
Sources of Support for the Armed Forces Community– This booklet is a guide to the sources of support available for serving personnel, veterans and their families living in Somerset.
Veterans’ Gateway– phone 0808 802 1212 or text 81212
The Veterans’ Gateway service provides a first point of contact for veterans seeking support. It aims to improve access to welfare services and speed up the time it takes for veterans to receive the support they deserve.
Veterans Shareline– 01752 816257
A free weekly hour-long telephone friendship and support group for injured veterans.
Combat Stress support helpline– 0800 138 1619 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Is a free national helpline run by Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Government to help veterans and their families access expert advice from people trained and experienced in dealing with ex-servicemen and women and their often complex mental health needs.
Notes to editors:
For more information, please contact:
Communications Team at Somerset CCG