The General Practice Armed Forces and Veterans’ Recognition Scheme is linked to a series of health and wellbeing recommendations made by the Scottish Veterans’ Commissioner to the Scottish Government, and it was agreed as a priority for the Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans Health Joint Group in 2022/2023. Its overarching purpose is that of meeting the health commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant by ensuring that no member of the Armed Forces Community is disadvantaged when accessing public services as a result of their service.
The scheme recognises the role of General Practices as gatekeepers in accessing healthcare. While highlighting some of the challenges associated with military life and the impact on Veterans and Service Families, it will also help practices signpost to sources of support for the Armed Forces.
After concluding an initial development stage undertaken in partnership by the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland, the third sector, and members of the veteran community, the pilot version of the scheme was launched in December 2022. As part of the pilot, a Turas training website has been developed, containing training resources aimed at clinical and non-clinical staff working in General Practices. Additionally, a registration form is currently in place, which provides us with some insight into current levels of awareness, local procedures, and any areas where practices might benefit from further support.
The pilot is being trialled in 18 General Practices across 9 Health Boards until April 2023. These practices will be invited to actively shape the future contents of the training to ensure that the scheme will be meaningful for both the patient and the practice. Improvement suggestions will be incorporated into the scheme ahead of the national roll-out, which is currently planned for September 2023.
While General Practices play a fundamental part in improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for Veterans and Armed Forces Families, they are not in this alone. Significant joint work is currently undertaken to improve veteran self-identification, the connectivity between the Defence Services, primary and secondary care, and overall service integration. This scheme is one of the important first steps in the right direction.
If, as part of your work, you are in touch with primary care professionals, we would welcome any awareness raising around this scheme. General Practices that have any further questions or are interested in taking part in the scheme are invited to contact the Scottish Government at firstname.lastname@example.org.