To mark Armed Forces Day on 25 June 2016, the NHS in Berkshire West is encouraging anyone who has served in the armed forces in any rank to let their GP practice and other NHS services that they use know about their veteran or reservist status.
Wokingham CCG and the South Central Veterans Service will be at Wokingham Market Place on Saturday 25 June 2016, taking part in an event to mark Armed Forces Day. There will be information and advice on special NHS services that are available to veterans, reservists and armed forces families.
Dr Johan Zylstra, Wokingham CCG’s Chair, said: “We have about 100 people who have identified themselves as veterans registered with GP practices in Newbury, Reading, and Wokingham. But we know there must be a lot more who are either registered with their GP practice but haven’t said they are veterans, or they are just not registered with a GP practice at all. As a result, we are missing an opportunity to signpost them to services either now or in the future.
“Some veterans return home with serious physical injuries – or they may be physically intact but at some stage face huge psychological or mental health issues. For some, this might not show up until years after they have left the armed forces.”
Those who served in the armed forces can have particular health needs and, under the Armed Forces Covenant, they should receive priority treatment where their health problems result from their armed forces service, subject to the clinical needs of others. The Armed Forces Covenant also provides access to specific mental health and other health support, as well as signposting to wider support services.
Chris Quirk, a veteran himself, now works for South Central Veterans Service. He gives a veteran’s view: “I left the RAF in 1980 and went straight into civvy street with little or no support to make that transition. However I was lucky on two counts; firstly I had left the RAF with qualifications and a trade – electronics. This led to a salaried job in the NHS. Secondly, I had not witnessed traumatic events of the like that so many of my colleagues now have in Iraq and Afghanistan and other areas.
“I believe the level of support for veterans, although not perfect, is far better now, particularly the way that the NHS and specialist charities work together. Registering as a veteran is now encouraged, which was not the case when I left the armed forces.
“Mental health and physical injuries related to your military service will get you priority access to health services, so it is well worthwhile to register with a GP and let them and other services know you’re a veteran.”
Identifying yourself as a veteran, reservist, someone who has recently left the armed forces or a member of an armed forces family also gives some additional context for those delivering health care. The more veterans, reservists and armed forces families that identify themselves to NHS services, the greater the awareness of their needs.
Dr Zylstra ended by saying: “We want more veterans to identify their service in the armed forces to their GP practice. It will hopefully mean that we ‘catch them before they fall’ so we can diagnose potential issues earlier and offer help.”
Notes to editors:
- There are four CCGs in Berkshire West: Newbury and District CCG, North and West Reading CCG, South Reading CCG, Wokingham CCG. Information about local services for veterans, reservists and armed forces families is available on each CCG website:
- A veteran is anyone that has given one day’s service in the armed forces.
- The South Central Veterans Service provides mental health support for anyone who has served in the British armed forces, offering help and support to all former members, of all ranks. The service is provided by Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Veterans and reservists can self-refer by contacting the service direct on (0118) 929 6426.
- Armed Forces Day is an annual event for people to show their support for the UK’s armed forces. This year, the theme is #SaluteOurForces . More information and ideas for how people can show their support are available at www.armedforcesday.org.uk
For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Sarah Rayner-Osbon, Senior Communications Manager for the Berkshire West CCGs
07917 183 365