Veterans' healthcare toolkit
When you become a Veteran Friendly practice, you gain access to a range of guidance for GPs on the care of patients who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families.
Veteran friendly GP practice accreditation
We are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to accredit GP practices as 'veteran friendly'. This programme supports practice to deliver the best possible care and treatment for patients who have served in the armed forces.
Over 1,300 GP practices in England are already accredited through this programme. We provide accredited practices with access to free online training, support them to identify and code their veteran patients, and offer advice on referrals. While each accredited practice must nominate a clinical lead, training content and activities are suitable for the whole practice to enhance your delivery of veteran healthcare.
After becoming accredited, 84% of accredited practices said they feel they have a better understanding of veterans’ needs (University of Chester evaluation)
We provide accredited practices with an information pack to help increase their understanding of the health needs of veterans, and the services available to them.
Accreditation is voluntary, but is included in the key commitments of the NHS Long Term Plan, which states: ‘To ensure all GPs in England are equipped to best serve our veterans and their families, over the next five years we will roll out a veterans accreditation scheme in conjunction with the Royal College of GPs.’
The initial application comprises five steps and will take approximately 20 minutes to complete.
76% of accredited practices have found the accreditation process ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to complete. The application form can be populated and submitted by any member of staff.
Accreditation is currently open to GP practices in England. We are working with the Devolved Nations to extend the programme.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are Veteran Friendly GP Practices required to do?
Our aim is to make the process as simple and straightforward as possible. This is about giving you and your practice the tools to identify, understand, support and refer your patients. Accreditation lasts for three years, and practices must commit to the following:
- Ask patients registering with the surgery if they have ever served in the British Armed Forces.
- Code it on the GP computer system. We recommend writing it out rather than using Read codes as these vary according to which computer system is used. We recommend that the term 'Military Veteran' is used.
- Have a clinical lead on veterans in the surgery. This should ideally be a member of the medical team but could be anyone who can make referrals (for example nurse, nurse practitioner, paramedic, clinical pharmacist, physician associate, health and wellbeing coach etc). It's worth remembering that it doesn't have to be the clinical lead that fills in the application form.
- This clinical lead is asked to stay up-to-date with the latest training, knowledge and thinking, which is delivered online via email by the RCGP as part of the free programme. They should also be available to provide advice to colleagues, and to support veterans directly when needed.
- Eligible practices should have a CQC 'good' rating or higher.
Where appropriate, you may need to refer patients to dedicated NHS services, such as Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service and the Veterans Trauma Network. You will be provided with a full list of appropriate support services, as part of your accreditation support.
To learn more about the experience of being a veteran friendly practice, listen to our podcast. In the podcast, RCGP clinical champion Dr Robin Simpson, accredited GP Dr Matthew Boulter and veteran Ashley Winter discuss the healthcare challenges faced by the veteran population in England and the impact of the accreditation scheme.
Prof Nigel Sparrow OBE, the CQC's former Senior National GP Advisor, signposts the programme in his best practice guidance: Take a look at Nigel's surgery 93: Caring for veterans and their families.
How your accreditation helps veterans
There are many benefits to becoming veteran friendly accredited, which is why 99% of accredited practices recommend the programme.
As well as being supported to provide the best care to your veteran patients, you will be able to capture better epidemiological data to improve future health provision.
By becoming an accredited practice, you will also ensure that the NHS is better able to meet the health commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant. This states that the Armed Forces community, including veterans, should face no disadvantage in accessing health services and should receive priority care for military attributable conditions, subject to clinical need.
Moreover, the accreditation provides a fantastic opportunity to improve rapport with veteran patients by making them feel more involved and connected. Following accreditation, practices reported an increased number of veterans registering at their practice and witnessed more veterans seeking help and engaging with GPs. Improved coding of veterans has also been cited as a benefit by accredited practices.
In addition, accredited practices have reported a boost in pride in being able to more effectively support veteran patients. If you would like to be able to identify, understand, support and refer your veteran patients more effectively, we recommend you sign up to the programme today.
Discover more about the impact of the veteran friendly accreditation programme in the evaluation, authored by University of Chester.