The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), The Royal British Legion and Combat Stress have launched guidance to support GPs in identifying and meeting the healthcare needs of veterans more effectively - including accessing the priority treatment to which all veterans are entitled for Service-related conditions.
Their jointly-produced guidance for GPs looks at how best to care for veterans' physical and mental health after they have left the Forces and rejoined civilian life. It provides useful advice on medical records and accessing priority treatment, along with dedicated sections including mental health needs, health behaviours, the provision of prostheses and hospital waiting lists.
On the priority treatment to which all veterans are entitled for Service-related conditions, BAFF has assisted members to inform their medical practitioners about this inadequately publicised entitlement. BAFF included this point in their evidence to a House of Commons Defence Committee Inquiry in 2007:
PRIORITY NHS TREATMENT FOR WAR PENSIONERS
27. War pensioners and equivalent are supposed to be entitled to "priority NHS treatment" for the condition for which their pension was awarded. There are two problems with this provision. Firstly, many NHS staff are unaware of it, and it seems likely that awareness will diminish as time goes on. Secondly, priority "is a matter for clinical judgement based on clinical need which means that the case with the greatest clinical need will receive precedence" (MoD 2007). Since the prime criterion is clinical need, and NHS staff are also required to apply numerous targets none of which include "care for veterans", the priority entitlement appears in reality to be virtually meaningless.
The situation has improved since then with the extension of the entitlement to the treatment of all Service-related conditions even if the veteran is not in receipt of pension for that condition. Awareness amongst health professionals has also improved. The new guidance for GPs produced by the RCGP, The RBL and Combat Stress is a great step forward and we commend it to practitioners.
- RCGP News: New guidance produced to help GPs support veterans' healthcare needs more effectively
- RCGP: Meeting the Healthcare needs of Veterans - download the guidance here
- SPVA: Priority NHS Healthcare for Veterans - includes links to the relevant health circulars for England, Scotland and Wales
- BFBS News 22 Sep 2010: New guidelines for treating veterans