Government delivers further expansion of health services to former armed forces personnel

The government has launched a campaign to help improve veterans’ access to healthcare services, and opened applications to the £2.52 million Veterans Mobility Fund

  • Government urges UK veterans to access specialist healthcare services through their GPs
  • Veterans can now apply for mobility grants through Help for Heroes to increase independence and choice
  • GP practices are encouraged to become ‘Veteran Friendly’ and refer patients who have served in the armed forces to dedicated NHS pathways.

The government has today (Tuesday 12 March) launched a campaign to help improve veterans’ access to healthcare services, along with opening applications for the £2.52 million Veteran Mobility Fund, as part of its commitment to drive better veteran health and recovery.

The Veterans Mobility Fund gives veterans with physical disabilities grants for mobility equipment that is not usually available on the NHS, such as specialist wheelchairs, and mobility scooters, to improve their quality of life. The fund - which is administered by Help for Heroes and Blesma - is open to veterans across the UK and can be accessed through Op RESTORE: The Veterans Physical Health and Wellbeing Service, an NHS service available across England. 

The government’s new campaign will help GPs identify which patients are veterans to ensure they receive the right diagnosis and referral to veteran mental and physical healthcare such as Op RESTORE and Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service. 

 Veterans will benefit from specialist care from clinicians who understand the armed forces community through these services. Op COURAGE provides specialist care and support for people who have served in the UK Armed Forces and are experiencing mental ill health. Available across England, the NHS service also works with a range of charities and local organisations to provide help with wider health and wellbeing needs, such as for substance misuse and addictions. Op RESTORE provides specialist care and support for individuals who have served in, or are leaving, the UK Armed Forces, and have continuing physical health injuries and related medical problems attributed to their time in the Armed Forces. 

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer, said:

"It is really important to tell your GP that you served so you can access all the veteran specific support services you are entitled to. 

"I want to encourage any veterans to come forward and to seek help. We stand ready to support our veterans."

At the same time, The Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) is working with NHS England and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to encourage more GP practices to become ‘Veteran Friendly’ accredited. Currently, 83.9% of Primary Care Networks in England now include an accredited practice. 

 Accredited practices have a clinical lead for veterans’ issues; take steps to identify and record patients as veterans; undertake dedicated training to better understand the health needs of veterans and, where appropriate, refer them to specialist healthcare services designed especially for them. 

Kate Davies, National Director for Armed Forces Health, NHS England, said:

"It’s really important that veterans who need treatment and support get the help they need and the best way to do this is to register with a GP practice and tell them you’ve served.  Along with helping to ensure that veterans get the support that’s right for them, this means that GPs and other healthcare professionals can better understand any health problems, particularly those related to a person’s time in the Armed Forces.  

"My message to veterans is that it’s never too late to tell your GP practice you’ve served; it doesn’t matter how long you served for or when you left the Armed Forces, sharing this information may be relevant to your health and care, now or in the future, and the NHS is here for you."

Dr Emily Brookes, the RCGP’s Veterans Clinical Champion, said:

"The Veteran Friendly Accreditation Scheme is designed to help GPs understand what medical issues are most common in veteran patients, and can help save time in diagnosing and treating them.

"Getting accredited only takes 20 minutes, and sends a strong signal to veteran patients that you are dedicated to supporting them, making it more likely that they will feel comfortable to seek help when they need it."

This follows the news last week that the Government is providing £26 million to support our bid to host the 2027 Invictus Games here in the UK.

As part of the cross-government Strategy Action Plan 2022-2024, the OVA has outlined improved access to healthcare support as a key strand in delivering a step change in support for veterans.

From: Cabinet Office, Office for Veterans' Affairs, NHS England, and The Rt Hon Johnny Mercer MP