Armed Forces Day is an opportunity to show support for the Armed Forces community, from currently serving troops to service families, veterans and cadets.
Back in March, we published our report which looked at how access to healthcare could be improved for veterans living in Hertfordshire. This was the first local report that focused on the veterans’ lived experience of using health services, including local veterans’ voices. It brought together veterans and NHS professionals to collectively consider how services could work differently to improve the experiences of veterans.
Areas for improvement highlighted by our report were:
- Identification: Most GP practices do not record or identify veterans, while Hospital Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups also do not have policies in place to ensure veterans are identified by services.
- Access: A key barrier to accessing priority treatment is that most NHS services are not aware of priority treatment, or do not understand what this means for veterans in practice. This lack of knowledge often means veterans cannot access priority care and are not signposted or referred to specialist services, charities and local support groups, primarily because NHS services are not aware this support exists.
- Awareness: Most veterans are not aware of the services and support available, largely because they have not been informed by the NHS about what care is available. This issue was identified by NHS services themselves, who emphasised the need for more information so they can address their access issues, health needs and priorities.
As a result of our report, the Health Subgroup of the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board developed practical steps in their 2021/2022 action plan to address areas for improvement for veteran healthcare access. This action plan will be presented to the NHS Integrated Care System (ICS) Board of Hertfordshire and West Essex at an upcoming meeting.
To help increase the understanding of the Armed Forces Covenant amongst practitioners, the Subgroup is working with the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance to promote the Veteran Aware accreditation scheme to Hertfordshire Trusts. East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust has been accredited, as well as the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust since the publication of our report.
Amongst primary care practitioners, the Health Subgroup has been promoting the Royal College of GPs Veteran Friendly GP Practice Scheme to Hertfordshire GP surgeries, of which there are ten currently accredited – an increase since the publication of our report. The Subgroup is working to ensure that there is at least one accredited practice per District Council by April 2022.
The Health Subgroup is also highlighting the needs of veterans in social prescribing workstreams to ensure consistent recording and reporting on issues facing veterans. Hertfordshire Covenant Board members continue to promote the Veterans Gateway app, to signpost where appropriate to HertsHelp and encourage healthcare organisations to sign up for the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
What is social prescribing?
Social prescribing involves helping patients to improve their health, wellbeing and social welfare. It is when health professionals refer patients to community services which might be run by the Council or a local charity.