GP practices in Richmondshire are now offering military service leavers and their families with the option to be seen by a military veteran doctor, via online video and at a number of surgeries across the region.
The flagship initiative seeks to recognise and address the specific needs – both in respect of healthcare and lifestyle structures – of former military personnel.
By providing an opportunity to be seen by a military veteran GP, the initiative hopes to improve patient confidence and ensure a better understanding of the problems that are more frequently seen in ex-forces patients, including a comprehensive range of conditions from hearing loss and back pain to stress and adjustment difficulties.
Military veteran and GP at Scorton Medical Centre in Richmondshire, Dr Andrew Dickie, supports the initiative.
Dr Dickie said: “For many of us, our military men and women are a source of pride for the UK, seen as heroes throughout their lives of service.
“However, for those who leave, retire or can’t continue on medical grounds, it’s often a huge challenge to adjust to civilian life.
“There are around 2.4 million veterans in the UK today, with around 18,000 new leavers each year – some of whom are reluctant or uncomfortable to seek healthcare from GPs from non-military backgrounds.
“Feeling that the GP simply can’t understand their individual needs, it’s very difficult for doctors to establish rapport and trust.
“By providing open access to military veteran GPs across the region, this initiative will undoubtedly improve the quality of care accessible to our veterans.”
Appointments in the military veterans clinic can be booked via the patient’s own practice.
The veteran clinic initiative is being delivered by Heartbeat Alliance – a federation of GP practices across the North Yorkshire region – and is supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and NHS England.
The RCGP has recognised that on leaving the forces, it is not uncommon for veterans to miss the structure, support and friendship that being in the military can provide.
The healthcare needs of veterans can be different from those of other patients in a number of ways.
Acknowledgement of this fact is a crucial first step in providing effective healthcare and treatment of veterans by veteran GPs.
The Heartbeat Alliance recognise this as a promising step towards better delivery of high-quality veteran healthcare.