The VCHA has added to its resources with a suite of new posters that are designed to empower individuals from the Armed Forces Community, including veterans, spouses, partners, and children, in asserting their healthcare rights within the NHS.
Titled “Your Rights to Confidentiality”, this suite serves as an essential resource for NHS staff, military children and young adults, as well as the broader Armed Forces Community and are available on the Resources for Organisations page in the Helpful Links box.
These informative posters establish a clear premise: that members of the Armed Forces Community possess the same entitlement to NHS healthcare and patient confidentiality as any other individual. Crucially, these posters emphasise that individuals within this community can openly discuss matters related to their health and well-being, including experiences tied to their or their families’ military service, without fear of adverse impact on professional prospects.
The suite, which is entitled Your Rights to Confidentiality, makes it clear that members of the Armed Forces Community, which includes those who serve, veterans, spouses, partners and children, have the same rights to NHS healthcare as anyone else and therefore the same rights to patient confidentiality.
The messaging makes it clear that members of the Armed Forces Community can talk to the NHS about anything that is affecting their health and wellbeing, even if it relates to their or their caregiver’s time in the military.
The suite addresses a recurring hesitation within the Armed Forces Community regarding discussing health concerns stemming from military service.
Often, this reluctance is rooted in misconceptions about the boundaries imposed by the Official Secrets Act, which military personnel are required to uphold. However, it is imperative to recognise that discussing personal or caregiver-related military experiences as they pertain to healthcare needs is entirely compliant with this Act.
Inspiration for the development of this suite emerged from the valuable insights shared by clinicians treating children and young adults, coupled with the first-hand experiences of VCHA Regional Lead Anna-Marie Tipping.
She said: “We know those who serve or have served may not openly reveal their Armed Forces background. It’s part of the territory, and it’s clear this attitude is prevalent within the wider Armed Forces Community. However, this doesn’t help clinicians diagnose what’s actually wrong with someone. They need to understand the full picture. Equally, it’s also important that healthcare staff ask the question about whether their patient is a member of the Armed Forces.
“This is why we have developed this suite of posters, which complements our existing array of VCHA resources.”
Clare Scherer MBE, Chief Executive of the Naval Children’s Charity, said: “These posters are a very useful tool in helping people understand what it means to be part of our Military community and how their information will be treated with respect and confidentiality.
“If it also enhances the number of those who identify as part of our community it will help all of those who support our Armed Forces to gain useful information about their needs and support required.
“Delighted to see that there is one specifically for children and young people – and how they fit in with the Armed Forces community as a whole.”
Louise Fetigan, founder of the charity Little Troopers, added: “Military life can be very different to civilian life, not just for the serving person but for their family too. It’s fantastic to see the VCHA acknowledging the unique concerns of our Armed Forces and Veterans community to help them feel better supported and improve patient experience.”