In the UK there are around 2.4m veterans, that is anyone who has served in the armed forces for at least one day.
When servicemen and women leave the armed forces, their healthcare is the responsibility of the NHS. It's very important that you register with an NHS GP and remember to tell them that you have served.
If you've recently left the armed forces, it's important to give your GP the paperwork that your military medical centre gave you, including any medical records. This will help to ensure your military health record transfers to your NHS health record. It will also give your GP information on your health and ensure that any ongoing care and treatment is continued.
All veterans are entitled to priority access to NHS care (including hospital, primary or community care) for conditions associated with their service, but this is always subject to clinical need, meaning that someone with a higher clinical need may be given a higher priority whether or not they have served.
If the NHS service you're dealing with is unaware of priority treatment, you're actively encouraged to tell them about it and be sure to tell them that you have served.
If you have served in the UK armed forces and have a complex and enduring physical, neurological or mental health issue resulting from injury whilst in service you may be eligible for the veterans personalised care programme. Individuals who are eligible for continuing health care have the right to receive a personal health budget. More information is available at https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/help-with-health-costs/what-is-a-personal-health-budget/
Mental health services for veterans
Mental illness is common and can affect anyone, including serving and ex-members of the armed forces and their families.
While some people cope by getting support from their family and friends, or by getting help with other issues in their lives, others need clinical care and treatment, which could be from the NHS, support groups or charities.
If you think you, or your partner or spouse, may be experiencing mental health difficulties, you can get expert help from the NHS Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) or the NHS Veterans' Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS). More information about these services can be found here.
To access NHS mental health care for veterans, you need to go through the TILS service. This can be done by contacting the service directly, or by asking your GP or a military charity to refer you. Veterans living in the East of England can call 0300 323 0137 or email mevs.mhm [at] nhs.net.
Locally, the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) provides a Veterans’ Stabilisation Programme, a cognitive-based therapy group to help veterans develop skills to manage day-to-day life, and the Veterans’ Response Partnership which delivers help and peer support directly to veterans across Norfolk and Waveney who are facing a mental health crisis. More information on both schemes is available here.
Services for veterans with physical injuries
The Veterans Trauma Network provides care and treatment to those who have been injured during their time in the armed forces.
Veterans accessing this service will be cared for by military and civilian clinicians who understand the nature and context of the injuries.
The referral process is simple. Make sure you have told your NHS GP that you have served in the armed forces and they can refer you by emailing england.veteranstraumanetwork [at] nhs.net; you can also be referred by Blind Veterans UK and Style for Soldiers.
For more information, email Blesma at bsoprosthetics [at] blesma.org or call 020 8548 7080.
NHS Prosthetic services for veterans
There are nine Disablement Service Centres (DSCs) across England that have been selected to provide enhanced services to veterans who have lost a limb as a result of their service in the armed forces. The nearest is the Addenbrooke’s Rehabilitation Clinic at Cambridge.
Veterans who lose limbs after they leave the military or while in the military, but not as a result of service, such as in a civilian road traffic accident, will still be able to access services as usual through their local DSC.
Where a veteran has lost a limb during military service, or whose limb loss is attributable to an injury sustained while in service, may qualify for additional funding for high-quality prosthetic limbs. All DSCs in England can apply to the Veterans Prosthetic Panel (VPP) for additional funding of behalf of veterans.
To find out more about NHS prosthetic services for veterans, speak to your GP or you can contact Blesma at bsoprosthetics [at] blesma.org or call 020 8548 7080.
Norfolk Armed Forces Covenant
The Armed Forces Covenant is a nationwide statement of support between the civilian and military community. The Norfolk Armed Forces Covenant has been in place since 2012. It is managed via a Board made up of key statutory agencies, military charities and representatives from the local armed forces community. You can find out more about the Norfolk Armed Forces Covenant here.
There are a number of local and national charities that can provide information and support to veterans; these include:
In additional to specific charities there are also a number of regimental associations that may be able to provide welfare support to former members of their regiments.
Further information about armed forces healthcare can be found here.