Joining Forces

ContactRob Heath, Manager and Lead Nurse for Veterans
Telephone0800 500 3113
EmailRobert.Heath@sssft.nhs.uk
Websitehttps://www.southstaffsandshropshiehealthcare.nhs.uk
AddressSt Georges Hospital, Corporation Street, Stafford, ST16 3AG

Joining forcesThis service developed by South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Trust with key partners promotes and enhances the psychological wellbeing of all military veterans who are engaged with mental health services in South Staffordshire and Shropshire.

A Lead Nurse oversees and supports military veterans in regards to their mental health. The service is supported by a consultant psychiatrist and a psychologist, both experienced in working with the veteran population. The team have been working alongside service users and staff to ensure that the needs of the veterans are recognised.

The service aims to:

  • engage with the veteran population and 3rd sector providers to ensure that services are co-ordinated.
  • provide staff engaging with veterans with appropriate peer support.
  • raise the profile of the mental health of veterans within all services

Service innovations

A range of initiatives were also introduced such as a dedicated free phone number for veterans and information booklets for service users.

Information for health professionals, service users and the public was also developed and published on the Trust’s website along with case studies and other useful information.

In addition a free mobile app was produced enabling ease of access to relevant information. Click on the relevant app store to view and download the app

The service has been proactive in connecting with service charities ensuring that there is close collaboration.

The service has also been working closely with Changes, a social enterprise, and they are also providing support to veterans with mental health difficulties. The Trust has also incorporated the classification of veterans into the clinical information system; therefore staff record the veteran’s status and so are then able to refer the service user to the Veterans’ Mental Service with one click. This data base is accessed daily and veterans can be seen within a four week time frame.

For veterans whose needs do not require the intervention of the local Community Mental Health Teams, the Veterans’ Service is also able to function as a stand alone service providing psycho therapeutic interventions and support. Ease of access to the service and self referral is available via the Free phone number 0800 500 3113.

Resources

  • Lead Nurse – 1 x WTE
  • Consultant Psychiatrist – 0.5 day per week
  • Consultant Psychologist – 1.0 day per week

Outcomes

Since the service was introduced in August 2012, 450 veterans have been through services.
Measurements are taken using PHQ9 GAD7 if the individual’s condition permits. Problems appear to be similar to the general population; some veterans have found the service to be more conducive to their needs and culturally acceptable.

Staff have a point of reference if they require clarification of the veteran’s backgrounds or experiences.

Integrated shared working with 3rd sector organisations assists in ensuring good communication and joint working.

The service has gained increased knowledge of the general health demographic of the veteran population.

To July 2013, Veteran’s information had 3682 page views which has been a prominent feature on the Trust website and has given valued advice about the service. A free helpline was provided so that veterans, families, professionals or members of the public can seek advice about veteran’s mental health.

Challenges

Initially, lack of identification of the veteran population, this has become less of a problem through the use of the clinical information systems.

Future plans

By further development of the service through building better relationships with the veterans’ community in order to ensure ease of access for all those who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health.

Key learning points

Basically it would the identification of veterans within the service user population. This is as simple as getting people to ask and record when they come into contact with users who are veterans. This is easiest if the electronic clinical system asks this question.

If staff can refer or seek advice then they will be more likely to engage with the veterans. Educating clinical staff why we ask this question can open up other avenues of support for veterans i.e. support available from Royal British Legion, SSAFA, SPVA or MOD etc.

Essentially it’s about recognising the health demographic of the veteran population and providing timely / effective advice treatment.

Staff do not have to be from a service background themselves but they are able to get peer support and advice from The Veterans’ Service to help them engage with the veteran population.

What most veterans need are a good nurse, doctor or therapist and a strong therapeutic relationship. As NHS staff we engage on a daily basis with veterans but sometimes don’t recognise their valuable contribution or the further support which can be available to them.

Further information