Veteran-friendly GP surgeries scheme to launch in Wigan

GP practices across the borough could soon be recognised as “veteran friendly” for their efforts to support military personnel and their families.

A new initiative is set to be launched next year which will see surgeries receive accreditation if they show they can provide the right support.

Wigan Borough Armed Forces HQ has secured a grant of £476,000 over two years from the Ministry of Defence to launch the “veteran aware” scheme.

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Laura Ingham, managing director of the armed forces hub, said: “That enables us to work with families to reduce the levels of stress in their lives.

“This project is not for people after a little bit of support or signposting, it’s for those struggling to engage in health and mental health services and suffering from various complexities.”

Using research showing where veterans are based in Wigan, work will be done with GPs to highlight the support available.

Mike Mills, who spent 25 years as a combat medic with the Royal Army Medical Corps and now volunteers on reception at Wigan Borough Armed Forces HQ, will visit practices to speak to staff about the needs of veterans and offer support as they sign up for the scheme.

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Mrs Ingham said: “Because of his experience, he’s going to be going out to GPs talking to them about what we do at the HQ and supporting them to apply for a veterans’ award.”

He will help medical staff as they complete an online learning package, which has been produced by Greater Manchester Combined Authority to ensure veterans and their families have the same support wherever they live in the area.

Businesses will also be encouraged to sign up for the armed forces covenant, which ensures any veterans they employ are not disadvantaged in any way.

It is hoped the new scheme will ensure current and former servicemen and women, along with their families, get the support available.

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GPs will be more aware of the issues they face and can flag up the services provided by the armed forces hub, which is peer-led.

Mrs Ingham believes it is important that health and support services work together to provide the right help.

She said: “We operate the armed forces HQ as a voluntary service - people come here when and if they need help.

“The GPs are probably going to be in touch with the majority of veterans in this borough because most people are registered with a GP. It’s about identifying where we can support people from an early intervention system.”

The project has the backing of NHS Wigan Borough CCG.

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Chairman Dr Tim Dalton, who is also a GP, said: “At Wigan Borough CCG we are proud members of the Armed Forces Covenant. This pledges our commitment to providing the best possible healthcare services to serving personnel, veterans and their families.

“There is some fantastic work being done across the borough to support veterans, via the armed forced hub and projects at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust. It’s great to hear that our 60 GP practices across the borough will soon have the opportunity to become accredited as ‘veteran friendly’. Through this programme practice staff will receive training to understand some of the key issues faced by veterans and how they can work to confidently and effectively support them and their families. We support this programme wholeheartedly.”