Research shows that, for service personnel, the transition to civilian life can lead to a range of challenges including health issues, family problems, homelessness and unemployment.
With 24% per cent of veterans aged 16-24 reporting a long-term mental or physical health condition compared to 13% in the general population, the health inequalities are clear.
There’s also little understanding of service families’ mental health needs and no joined-up approach to supporting them. Dorset is host to five military camps and is committed to the Military Covenant. With no best practice to follow we recognised an innovative approach was required.
We wanted to reduce health inequalities for veterans and families of both retired and serving personnel, by improving access to services and tailored care/treatment. We also wanted to improve knowledge and awareness of Armed Forces community issues within Dorset HealthCare and partners, as well as developing effective networking with veterans, the Armed Forces, military charities, the voluntary sector and the public.
We’ve developed collaborative working relationships with a range of partners including local garrisons, local authorities, and the Personal Recovery Unit at Tidworth. The latter has led to direct referrals to the service from the Ministry of Defence.
We’ve established a Wellbeing Gateway through which assessments are offered, with 55 completed to date. Working directly with welfare chains in Bovington and Hamworthy garrisons we’ve organised a health fair to provide advice and networking. We’ve also identified a pool of people keen to take up job vacancies in the Trust, contributing to our recruitment drive.
Service users, members of service charities and representatives from health and local authorities have co-produced a clinical pathway with us and we’re developing our workforce capable to help them support people from an Armed Forces background.
Housing can be a real issue for former service personnel so we’re working closely with local charities and to date have helped seven people to find permanent accommodation, four of whom were street homeless. For the future we’re working with other providers to develop housing stock that veterans and families can access.
Plans are also in train to establish a unique Dorset retreat for veterans working with a local land owner, veteran representatives and local and national charities. This will include life skills training and education to assist people back into work. We have an active caseload of 37 individuals and family members and give regular advice to colleagues from health, local authorities and the military.
This initiative is likely to represent considerable savings to both health and local authority economies which we plan to evaluate over the next 12 months.
• Involving patients and service users in developing services
• Establishing trust and close working with partner organisations
• Planning for the future and thinking prevention.