Helping our heroes: NHS urges veterans to get help despite coronavirus outbreak

Kara Sennett, who served as a Postal and Courier Operator in the Royal Logistics Corps.
Kara Sennett, who served as a Postal and Courier Operator in the Royal Logistics Corps.

The NHS has today paid tribute to the many veterans who are working as ‘hidden heroes’ in the efforts to tackle the virus.

To date the world-leading services have improved the lives of thousands of former services personnel, supporting their physical and mental health needs for those who struggle with civilian life, some of whose stories are set out below.

While a growing number of veterans have been referred for help year-on-year, latest data indicates a drop in the number of people reaching out to specialist services in April.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak help is still available and has been adapted to offer more digital services, including video consultations with psychotherapists and support by phone, in response to social distancing rules and travel restrictions in place.

The NHS lead for armed forces’ health has today issued a timely call urging veterans to seek help as dedicated services remain open for business.

Kate Davies CBE, Director of Armed Forces at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “This weekend’s VE Day commemorations are a reminder of the remarkable difference our armed forces have made to our country throughout history and the contribution they continue to make today on the NHS frontline in the fight against coronavirus.

“At a time when we are facing significant uncertainty and long periods of isolation which can be particularly worrying, it has never been more important for veterans to reach out if they need support – help is available – with new digital offers which ex-personnel are already benefiting from.”

The NHS is committed to making sure that every veteran gets the best possible support for their physical and mental health with dedicated services available for those who struggle with civilian life including targeted mental health services for veterans.

These include the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS), which identifies and treats mental health needs early, and the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS), which gives intensive support to those with military-related complex mental health concerns not improved by earlier care and treatment.

Despite a drop elsewhere in England, April referrals to the CTS service in the North of England, run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT), went up, and the team is encouraging former forces personnel to keep coming forward for help.

Vicki Ray, Clinical Team Manager for the service, said: “We are continuing to support our veterans across the North of England, adapting our provision and utilising digital platforms. We are working hard to support our veterans who may be suffering from an increase in their PTSD symptoms and have recently introduced a new virtual well-being group, incorporating practical strategies that veterans can adopt when isolating.”

The North of England CTS has been a massive support to Yorkshire based Kara Sennett, who served as a Postal and Courier Operator in the Royal Logistics Corps, pictured above.

Kara said: “It’s been an outstanding service. Ever since I was first referred, I feel like I’ve been in the best hands. I was always made to feel comfortable, could take everything at my own pace and have had treatment adapted so it works better for me. I want to say a massive thank you to my psychologist.”

During the coronavirus outbreak, Kara has adapted to having treatment remotely and but can email her psychologist if she needs anything. She is taking the opportunity to learn new supportive techniques during this period.

More information on NHS mental health services for veterans can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/military-healthcare/nhs-mental-health-services-for-veterans/

[NHS Media Team – Northern England & Yorkshire]

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