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Primary careNov 3, 2022

Remembrance Day reminder that physiotherapists can act as clinical leads to support veterans

In the run-up to Remembrance Day (11 November), physiotherapists are being encouraged to take the initiative in joining an accreditation scheme, which helps to ensure that GP practices identify and support veteran patients with undisclosed health needs. 

Emily Brookes, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPs) Veteran Clinical champion, said: ‘With their musculoskeletal (MSK) expertise, first contact physiotherapists can play a leading role in their practice by becoming a clinical lead as part of the Royal College of GPs' veteran-friendly practice accreditation scheme, supporting veterans and their families this Remembrance Day.’

Dr Brookes noted: ‘Veterans are a group that potentially face unique health challenges, particularly when it comes to MSK issues.’

MSK-related problems often act as triggers for medical discharges from the Armed Forces, and many former service personnel require treatment and rehabilitation for chronic pain and the injuries they sustained, Dr Brookes explained.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Equipped with MSK expertise, physios are well-placed to act as clinical leads in the scheme

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Veterans can 'slip under the radar'

Research studies have shown that one veteran in two (52 per cent) has a long-term illness, disability or infirmity – with rates that are significantly higher than those found in the general adult population (35 per cent).  About one veteran in eight (12 per cent) is thought to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are two million veterans in the UK, according to estimates, meaning that the average GP is likely to see a veteran patient every day. Veterans are often reticent about disclosing their health needs and many practices fail to record data on their veteran patients, with some veterans slipping under the ‘under the radar’ as a result

In response to such concerns, the RCGP launched the veteran friendly GP practice accreditation scheme with NHS England – a free initiative to help practices identify, support, and appropriately refer veteran patients, if necessary, to support improved health outcomes. More than 1,500 practices (out of a total of 6,822) have signed up so far, with promising results.

Accreditation starts with the completion of a short form on the RCGP website – which takes less than 20 minutes and can be done by any member of the practice team. Once accredited, practices commit to coding patients who have served in the Armed Forces as ‘Military Veterans’ and appointing a clinical lead for veterans. They also gain access to free training and support from the RCGP and receive promotional materials to help them advertise their veteran friendly status to their patients.

With their MSK expertise, first contact physiotherapists can play a leading role in their practice by becoming a clinical lead as part of the RCGPs' veteran-friendly practice accreditation scheme [Emily Brookes]

Patient's experience

Andrew Cave, a veteran and patient of an accredited practice, said: ‘As a veteran, I know only too well the difficulties that ex-service personnel can face when visiting their GP practice with service-related issues. It can be extremely daunting, especially if they feel their circumstances and background may not be understood.'

Mr Cave added: 'Since last summer, I have been engaging with local practices, encouraging them to become veteran friendly accredited and, with Remembrance Day approaching, I urge practices all over the country to support their veteran patients by becoming veteran friendly accredited.”  

Dr Brookes added: ‘From my own experience as a military doctor and as a GP, I have been able to connect with my veteran patients and positively transform consultations when they have felt that they, and their experiences, have been understood. Being accredited as a veteran friendly GP practice means that practices are equipped to identify, support, and refer veteran patients for the best outcomes.

‘I can think of no better way to support the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces this Remembrance Day than signing up to the veteran friendly practice scheme.’

To find out more about the free scheme for GP practices, visit: https://www.rcgp.org.uk/veterans

To read an earlier PhysioUpdate article on this topic, visit: https://www.physioupdate.co.uk/news/first-contact-physiotherapists-are-perfectly-placed-to-be-veteran-clinical-leads-in-gp-practices/

Author: Ian A McMillan
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