The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust have marked the first birthday of receiving Veteran Aware accreditation. The scheme makes sure patients who are former or current members of the armed forces are supported to take into account challenges they may face – for example post-traumatic stress disorder – when they are in the hospital environment. It also recognises steps organisations, including the Trust, take to help people transition into a career with them after they leave the forces.
Over the past year the Trust have had a member of staff from the Defence Medical Welfare Service based at the hospital two days a week. They make sure veterans and serving members of the forces get the best possible care during their stay. They also work with the patient and their loved ones to make sure they have access to other services once they are discharged, for example related to mental health or housing support.
Jo Hunt, Welfare Officer, Defence Medical Welfare Service said, “I work hand in hand with clinical staff to provide ongoing support and welfare that’s needed among the Armed Forces Community. If you have done National Service, served for just one day or had a long career in the Forces, then please let the member of staff caring for you know so they can point me in your direction to support you.”
The Trust have also worked hard to build links with forces and veteran organisations in the community. This includes working with Brock Barracks, and the Medical Centre at Benson RAF base. They have also built links with the Op Courage Team at Berkshire Healthcare to run awareness sessions with Emergency Department staff to talk through how to help patients from the forces get access to the mental health support they provide.
Dr Joseph Mulae, Our Veteran Aware Clinical Lead, explains, “Veteran awareness is vital to make sure we give the best care and experience to all our patients. Veterans may have conditions directly related to their military service and, in these instances, there are often dedicated resources available to help them for example Op Courage.
“Veteran awareness also extends to our workforce including the recruitment of veterans, and supporting employees who are serving, reservists, or are family members to those serving in the military. That’s so everyone can continue to benefit from the wealth of diverse experience they bring to the Trust family.”
They have also continued to work with the Gurkha community to understand their needs and how services can improve. This year they held an event with them on Cancer Awareness and 160 Gurkha’s attended. This was to raise awareness and share information about cancer red flags.
Chief Nurse, Eamonn Sullivan, a reservist in the Army Medical Services who has served as a nursing officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, said, “This is an issue I feel very passionate about. As a Trust, we are proud to have achieved Veteran Aware status and for our continued work in this area to have been recognised one year on.
“Across the organisation, we have made huge progress in understanding and making improvements for veterans and active Armed Forces patients and staff. We have also made a number of great connections in our local community, including with the Gurkha community, which we continue to build on.”