Southern Health has signed up to the ‘Armed Forces Covenant Pledge’ as the first step in its ambition to become a ‘Veteran Aware’ NHS Trust this year.
‘Veteran Aware’ Trusts lead the way in improving care for veterans within the NHS (as part of the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance). In joining the ranks of Trusts who have already achieved this status, Southern Health will be in good company - alongside Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust locally.
By signing up to the forces-friendly pledge, Southern Health is committed to:
- providing the best care possible for veterans and their families
- encouraging all patients and staff to tell us if they have served in the armed forces so that we can best support them
- learning from our staff, patients and their families to improve care
- supporting the employment of veterans (with a tailored employment pathway for those leaving the military)
- supporting the employment of military spouses/partners (with flexible time off around a partner’s deployment)
- supporting staff who are reservists (accommodating any training and deployment)
- training staff to be aware of veterans’ unique needs and how to signpost to other helpful local services
- building a network of Armed Forces Ambassadors within the Trust.
Sara Courtney, Southern Health’s Deputy Director of Nursing - and herself a veteran having served in the Royal Navy before joining the NHS - explained: “A veteran is anyone who has served in the armed forces for at least one day. There are about 2.6 million ex-service people living in the UK and about 3 million dependent family members. As veterans make up between 3% and 9% of the population, it is important that we consider their specific health needs. Many leave the military with complex medical and psychological health issues – such as musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory problems and for some, mental health issues such as PTSD, depression and alcohol misuse.
“As the biggest provider of mental health services in Hampshire and with a large number of military bases across the county, it is key that we improve veterans’ care wherever possible – for the benefit of our patients and all our staff with military connections.”
Southern Health’s journey towards ‘Veteran Aware’ status follows the launch of a new High Intensity Service, which started rolling out in late November. The service – which is led by Solent NHS Trust in collaboration with Southern Health and other organisations - means that former service personnel or their loved ones can call NHS 111 if they need urgent mental health care and access rapid support.