Armed Forces Day is taking place on Saturday 27 June and is an opportunity to remember those who make up armed forces community.
This year the nation has seen both the 75th anniversary of VE day and the role that the armed forces has played in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic through the setting up of hospitals and delivering vital medical supplies to the NHS. Both of these serve as poignant reminders of the unending support provided by the armed forces to the UK both then and now.
This is also an opportunity to remind ourselves about the on-going commitment of the NHS towards the Armed Forces Covenant and the essential role that we can all play as healthcare providers to the Veterans community.
What is a Veteran?
A veteran is anyone who has served at least one day’s paid service in the HM Armed Forces at any time (including National Servicemen, Regulars and Reserves).
What is the Armed Forces Covenant (AFC)?
The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge that together we acknowledge and understand that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect.
The Armed Forces Covenant therefore outlines how the Government, businesses and communities support Armed Forces personnel. As healthcare providers, we can also play a part.
How can you play your part?
Step 1 - Ask ‘the question’
The most simple and effective thing you can do as an individual and as a health service, is to ensure you routinely ask your clients, preferably at the point of referral, whether they have ever served at least one day in the British Armed Forces.
Step 2 – Raise awareness of the many services on offer
If they say they have served, you may wish to point them in the direction of the many charities and organisations that are on offer. This can seem a daunting and time consuming task and so a useful resource is the veterans’ gateway (www.veteransgateway.org.uk) which has compiled most of these services into one place.
Step 3 – If there is a mental health concern, consider contacting the Veterans Mental Health TIL Service
The team is based in the west wing of St Pancras Hospital and can be contacted either by phone (0203 317 6818) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What can these veterans service offer help with?
There are over 300 veteran-related charities in the UK. These charities usually specialise in certain areas of support including:
Mental health (Combat Stress, Help for Heroes, Walking with the Wounded); housing (STOLL, Veterans Aid)
Finances/ war pensions/ compensation (Royal British Legion, Veterans UK)
Physical health/ rehabilitation (King Edward VII Hospital - Centre For Veterans’ Health, Blesma)
Employment (The Poppy Factory, Civvy-Street, RFEA)
Social activities (SSAFA, Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Clubs)
Families/ partners and carers (Ripple Pond)
Are there many veterans in the UK or London?
In Great Britain, there are estimated 2.4 million UK Armed Forces veterans (MOD, 2019) representing around 3.6% of the population.
In London, estimates on the veterans population range from 123,000 (MOD, 2019) to 300,000+ (London Councils); representing between 1.5-3.5% of the city.
The NHS London Veterans Mental Health TIL Service in 2019-20:
Since the start of the veterans services in Camden and Islington in 2007, the team has seen over 1300 separate referrals, with the number of referrals year on year steadily increasing.
Over the past financial year, the TILS saw 199 referrals, this is a 14% increase from 2018-19 and a 39% increase from 2017-18.
The Complex Treatment Service (CTS) saw 75 referrals over 2019-20 with most of these going on to trauma-focused therapy within the service.
In addition the work of the TILS and CTS, this year has also seen the service begin to establish a new level of support for clients in the form of the High Impact Service (HIS).
This year also saw the Trust take on the only veterans monthly drop-in of it’s in London. This is currently on hold due to Covid-19 but will be up and running as soon as safely possible.
The service also continues to run its service users group online, helping to establish an independent voice for the veterans who have been through our services.
Commitment to supporting our diverse community:
As the London TILS covers all the 32 boroughs of Greater London, we serve the most diverse veteran population in the UK.
Over 20% of our clients come from ethnic minority groups, with the most common groups being Black (17%), Mixed (3%) and Asian (2%).
Importantly, many of our veterans have also come to the UK from the wider Commonwealth as they are all eligible to join the British Military; this includes countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, India, South Africa, Nepal and Fiji.
This can result in out clients having to not only transition from the military to the civilian world, but also from their countries of birth to the UK.; the TIL Service is central to identifying these processes and addressing the challenges that can arise as a result.
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Telephone: 020 3317 3500
In an emergency
C&I has moved the service we normally offer in emergency departments to our 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Assessment Service, at St Pancras Hospital. The service will see people in need of urgent care so that they do not have to go to a hospital emergency department unless they have an urgent medical need. Emergency departments are under unprecedented pressure due to COVID-19 – the illness caused by coronavirus. We are urging people in mental health crisis to telephone our 24/7 crisis line on 0800 917 3333 or contact their usual community mental health team. If service users attend the 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Assessment Service in person we will see you but we urge you to contact the crisis line in advance for advice to ensure you are only leaving home when absolutely necessary.