Advocating for vulnerable veterans: the Acute Hospital Settings programme

The Supporting Armed Forces in Acute Hospital Settings programme was jointly funded by the Covenant Fund and NHS England and NHS Improvement to support pilot projects to try better ways of supporting veterans and their families when they are in a hospital setting.

This involves having an Armed Forces Advocate to provide additional support and co-ordination with services and Armed Forces charities; and making other improvements that benefit the Armed Forces community.

Almost £2 million was awarded to 17 projects across the UK.

Latest figures are positive

As part of the programme’s ongoing evaluation of its own impact, the Armed Forces Advocates record information about their service users using an online portal.

Latest figures show service users have an average age of 78 and 98% are male. 34% had served under National Service and just over three quarters now rely on people three or more times a week for support.

What’s the latest from the projects?

16 out of the 17 projects now have Armed Forces Advocates – or a similar role – recruited and in place.

In Northern Ireland, the Somme Nursing home received £120,000 to establish the Veterans’ Advice Line for Statutory Professionals (VASP). This signposting service is steadily growing with continuous promotion to organisations such as the police, dentistry and criminal justice system.

Figures from October 2022 show that while 36% of calls came from organisations regarding a specific veteran case, a further 27% came from veterans themselves.

Top issues so far have included mental health, physical injury and information about what services are available. In many cases, the VASP Project Manager, funded through the Acute Hospitals programme, is required to advocate for the individual callers to the relevant service or organisation as, due to poor mental or emotional health, the callers are unable to complete referrals for themselves.

As of 11 November 2021, the advice line had received 138 enquiries. These ranged from pensions and peer support, to hearing loss and homelessness.

Balancing awareness with support

In Scotland, Defence Medical Welfare Services (DMWS) oversee two projects: one with NHS Lothian and another with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The latter have been balancing raising awareness of their project, with supporting those in need. They have supported 42 veterans so far, 13 of which have very complex health and wellbeing needs.

Making more NHS staff Armed Forces aware

At the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, the Armed Forces Healthcare Lead has now been in post for over six months and has already made significant improvements in areas such as:

  • identification and raising awareness of the Armed Forces community
  • staff learning & development
  • recruitment & Employment
  • Armed Forces Champions
  • making connections

In terms of staff training and development, the Trust has launched ‘lunch & learn’ sessions with great success. These sessions aim to create an understanding of the Covenant and their responsibilities as a healthcare provider. They also explore the Forces culture and how this can contribute to difficulties when leaving services.

The sessions ensure staff are ‘Armed Forces Aware’ so they are better able to understand the unique circumstance faced by this community and how this can impact on their ability to access healthcare. The sessions have been extremely well received and since November have been delivered to 62 staff with a further 4 lunch & learn sessions arranged, and 2 full team training sessions arranged. Staff who have completed the training receive a certificate and an Armed Forces Aware pin badge to identify them to service users.

Aside from the lunch & learn sessions, the Trust has introduced Armed Forces Champions – a first point of contact for their colleagues who encounter Forces service users during their usual duties. Champions are role models for colleagues and have a supporting role around issues relating to all members of the Forces community. The role has been popular, with 29 new champions identified since November 2022. The Trust’s aim is to have at least one champion in every ward and department.

Find out more

We are delighted to hear about the connections, events and awareness campaigns that the AFA’s are involved in. It is wonderful to see the advocates proving to be a great tool for prevention. Our hope is that this will help create a little less strain on the NHS, especially important in the current climate.

What’s more, we’re pleased to note that all of the Armed Forces Advocate are actively partnering with our Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme to support the delivery of stronger pathways to support in and out of NHS care.

We encourage you to find out more about what support is available in your area. We’ll also bring you further updates as the projects progress.

A full list of funded projects and Trusts is available on our Acute Hospitals page, where you will also find full details about the funding programme.

Join us for a free webinar

We’re hosting a webinar on Tuesday 31 January. The positive impact of Armed Forces advocates on veterans in acute hospital settings will share more on the latest findings from the Supporting Armed Forces in Acute Hospital Settings programme.

You’ll hear from our programme lead Steven Inman and our Project Co-ordinator Gemma Calvert, as well as our programme evaluators at Chester University, Dr Becky Randles, Lottie Ainsworth- Moore, and Professor Alan Finnegan.

We are also honoured to be joined by four of our projects from across the UK who’ll be sharing insights into the work they are doing for vulnerable veterans.

Sign up to attend The positive impact of Armed Forces advocates on veterans in acute hospital settings

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By @Cobseo 55 years ago

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