MOD and veterans charities join forces to train West Midlands GPs

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and a series of veterans charities have announced a training event for West Midlands GPs on Thursday 22 September.

One of the charities who has been involved in the training programme since its inception in 2015 is Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

The event, which is due to take place on 22 September in West Bromwich, will see local GPs receive talks from military charities on their area of specialism, before moving onto a ‘speed dating’ format where GPs will have the chance to speak to the veterans directly.

Blind Veterans UK will be represented by Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers veteran Simon Brown, who lost his sight when he was shot through the face by a sniper while serving in Iraq.

Colonel Julian Woodhouse, Army GP and Clinical Director for MOD overseas healthcare, started putting on these events in 2015 after veteran care was added to the GP curriculum. Since then, over 5,000 GPs have received training at over 100 events across the country.

Julian says:

“There are as many veterans in this country as there are diabetics. And our veterans have unique health care needs that have to be taken into consideration. These events help GPs learn how to support veterans and speak their language.

“The feedback from GPs has been excellent and in 2017 we even won a prize for innovation in training from the Royal College of General Practitioners.

“After pausing the sessions during the pandemic, I’m looking forward to hearing Simon speak again. He’s a class act and the most effective communicator I have ever met.”

Simon Brown, representing Blind Veterans UK, says:

“I’m proud to have supported this event from the very beginning. It’s so important that we get our GPs up to speed with veteran’s issues and these events do just that.

“The veterans community is more than happy to work together with the healthcare industry to help them, help us, and work closely in partnership.”

Simon joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1997. During his career, he worked as a vehicle mechanic servicing and maintaining Army vehicles, serving in Germany, Kosovo, Poland, Canada and Iraq.

In 2006, while serving as a corporal, he led a successful mission to recover six stranded colleagues in Iraq. He was shot in the face by a sniper, the bullet entered his left cheek and exited the other side. Fortunately, he wasn’t knocked out and was able to perform his own first aid for 25 minutes. His colleagues rushed him to Basra Palace, where he was put into an induced coma.

Simon awoke 17 days later in a Birmingham hospital. He had lost his left eye and had to undergo several intensive operations to reconstruct his cheeks and nose. Simon was left with around 20% vision in his right eye.

Simon recalls:

“When I found out that I’d lost my sight, my world fell apart. I’d lost my career, I’d lost my job and I’d lost my future.” Fortunately for Simon, he found the charity Blind Veterans UK later that year and started receiving the support he needed.

Simon says:

“In my early days with Blind Veterans UK the education and peer support was invaluable. They built up my confidence and gave me support with the pragmatic things I needed to move forward. I learned how to use email again, I learned how to cook meals by myself, things most people take for granted.”

Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country, but the charity knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit  

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