Hertfordshire Heroes calls for veterans to share their service history with GPs to access valuable support

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Armed Forces Week is an opportunity to celebrate the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community

In support of Armed Forces Week, Hertfordshire County Council on behalf of Hertfordshire Heroes, is encouraging veterans in the county to share their service history with local GP practices to ensure they have access to the valuable support available to them.

Armed Forces Week (June 21 to June 27) is an opportunity to celebrate the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community across the country.

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Hertfordshire Heroes (also known as The Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board) are advocating for veterans to share their service history with their GPs who can grant priority access to support and care when necessary.

Dr Henry Grundy-Wheeler during his time in service as a Military GPDr Henry Grundy-Wheeler during his time in service as a Military GP
Dr Henry Grundy-Wheeler during his time in service as a Military GP

This additional support for ex-servicemen and women includes direct referrals to both specialist physical and mental health services such as the NHS’ Op Courage Service, as well as referrals for social prescribing for supportive military charities such as The Royal British Legion.

Helping Hertfordshire GP practices become more veteran friendly has been a key priority for the Armed Forces Covenant Board, as the partnership looks to deliver the Armed Forces Covenant locally and ensure that veterans have access to all the services available to them.

Dr Marie-Anne Essam, clinical lead for social prescribing in the NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I recently met a patient who was depressed and at risk of eviction having lost his job.

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"He opened up and shared with me that he was a veteran and in many ways, his post-traumatic stress was incurred when leaving the forces rather than when he was serving our country.

“We spoke about the immediate assistance available to him and I made a social prescribing referral to link him up with local specialised resources.

"I also offered a referral for mental health support which is tailored for veterans. We also talked about local organisations who are actively recruiting veterans to work with them, such as our local hospital. He became far more hopeful as we spoke about his experience and said he wished he spoke to me about this years ago.”

Veteran Ashlee Manning, who now works as a Social Prescriber and GP Link Worker for HCNS (Herts Help Hospital & Community Navigation Service) said: “I served in the Royal Logistics Corps when I was only 16.

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"When I left, I struggled to re-adapt. Moving from the Army to being a civilian again was difficult - especially being a veteran in my twenties - but I was too proud to reach out for help.

"I realise now it took courage to reach out and I have never looked back since. Since doing the Social Prescribing, it's really opened my eyes to the amount of support out there within the community, and how many professionals are really keen to help.”

The Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board, promoted locally as Hertfordshire Heroes, works in partnership to deliver the Armed Forces Covenant locally. It brings together business, military organisations, charities, NHS and local authorities in a shared commitment to:

- Ensure that veterans and those in the Armed Forces are not disadvantaged in accessing services

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- Ensure that the sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces Community are recognised and remembered

- Encourage the integration of service life into civilian life.

Cllr Terry Douris, chairman of the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board, said: “For ex-servicemen and women who have served their country so gallantly, I would encourage them to share their service history with their doctor to ensure that any healthcare needs they may have are met.”

As commissioned by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the NHS, there are currently ten officially accredited veteran friendly GP practices in Hertfordshire, including Kings Langley Surgery.

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Former Military GP, Dr Henry Grundy-Wheeler, who is now the clinical lead for veteran healthcare at the Church Street Partnership GP practice in Bishop’s Stortford said: “When accessing healthcare, it is always important that veterans feel able to share their service history, so they can be made aware of the wide range of support available to them.

"As part of the military covenant, various organisations led by the Government, allow priority access to veterans for certain treatments related to service attributable or service acquired medical complaints.

“Therefore, sharing your service history with your GP will allow access to a range of bespoke services that may be pertinent to a veterans health. In some instances, this priority access can result in faster treatment and prevention of long-term health conditions.”

For veterans who wish to find out more about the healthcare options available to them, visit: www.hertfordshireheroes.org/healthcareforveterans.