A new scheme has been launched to enable GPs in Wales to register to become ‘veteran-friendly' practices and provide specialist care for current and former military personnel.
Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) has created the new programme to enable GP practices to register to become accredited Veteran Friendly practices.
The programme enables GP practices to sign up voluntarily to undertake specialist training on veterans' health and wellbeing and promoting fair treatment and respect for people who have served with the armed forces, and their families.
GP surgeries joining the scheme will routinely ask new patients if they or their family members have served, or are currently serving, with the British armed forces.
Practices will need to stay up to date with the latest training and guidance on veterans' health, so they can support their patients' health most effectively.
Dr Chris Price, programme lead for HEIW and a practising GP in Cwmbran, said:
Providing priority NHS care for a patient whose condition results from, or is related to, their military service can make a real difference to them and their families.
Whilst most military veterans will not have conditions related to their service, I have personally seen the difference that recognising the impact of service on health can make to an individual. This recognition can build and cement trust between the person and their GP. I would recommend that practices examine this programme and strongly consider their participation.
Lynne Neagle, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being, said:
The health issues that some of our military veterans experience as part of their service is quite rightly prioritised within NHS Wales. Unfortunately, many conditions do not become obvious until after a veteran has left military service.
I'm therefore delighted to see the creation of the Veteran Friendly GP practice scheme in Wales, which will make it easier for our veterans to have their healthcare needs met when and where they need it.
Sir Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer, said:
All armed forces veterans are entitled to receive priority access to NHS care and treatment for any conditions, physical and mental, related to their military service.
GPs have an important role in making initial referrals for patients who require specialist assessment, investigation or treatments. The recording of veteran status within GP clinical systems is a critical first step in ensuring our veterans receive the care they need.
Ahead of the Welsh Government's Armed Forces Community conference in Cardiff, which will bring together veterans' groups, charities, public sector and the three armed services, Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, said:
We are very proud of our Welsh veterans and the introduction of ‘veteran-friendly' GP practices shows our ongoing commitment to supporting our Armed Forces community.
Organisations across Wales have long been signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant, which recognises the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families. I'm very pleased we're able to continue building on that to help ensure their healthcare needs are met most effectively.