On Thursday 26 January, Nottinghamshire’s Primary Integrated Community Services (PICS) became the first primary care employer in England and the first independent health provider in the Midlands to be honoured with Veteran-Aware status.
PICS staff received the award from the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA) during a special ceremony at Mansfield’s Meden Medical Centre. VCHA Team Leader, Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Guy Benson, said the quality of care and workplace support provided by PICS had ‘significantly improved’ the health and wellbeing of Nottinghamshire’s Veterans.
Tony Armstrong, VCHA’s Widening Scope (Projects) Lead, applauded staff for “building a 360 support network for the local Veteran and Armed Force community through collaboration with local partners, community initiatives and GP services”. He also recognised excellent systems at PICS for finding veterans and members of the armed forces community.
Local Veterans were invited to enjoy tea and cake with PICS and VCHA staff to mark the occasion. RAF Veteran Brain Booth, 84, said he ‘didn’t know which way to turn’, but the support he received now means ‘my life is a lot easier now.’
Also invited were Veterans who now work at PICS, alongside volunteer Veteran Champions who support colleagues from the Armed Forces community in the workplace.
With primary care including GP Surgeries and community services handling over 90 per cent of NHS care, it’s crucial this workforce recognises that the armed forces community are more likely to have poorer health outcomes due to being in service or having a loved one in service.
PICS is owned and run by local GPs to deliver services to over 1 million residents in Nottinghamshire and City on behalf of the NHS, providing General Practice, community clinics, specialist services out of hospital, home visiting care, and support for long term conditions and wellbeing.
The Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA) works with NHS healthcare providers in England to help them provide the best standards of care for the armed forces community, ensuring that members are treated fairly. This includes knowing how to identify Veterans, awareness of their specialist needs and the ability to provide or refer on for appropriate support and services.
Tony Armstrong personally thanked PICS Veteran Aware Champions Jo Fleming, Clinical Pharmacist from Newark Primary Care Network and Anna Parker, Paramedic for Mansfield North Primary Care Network, for assisting other GP Practices in the region to work towards and achieve Veteran-Aware status.
‘Aeroplane-mad’ Brian Booth, 85 from Warsop, Mansfield is ex-RAF and cares for his wife Mary, 86, who has Dementia. He became worried about managing and ‘didn’t know which way to turn’. In September 2022, Brian met Rose Severn, PICS Social Prescribing Link Worker for Mansfield North Primary Care Network, at his local Veteran’s breakfast club, and explains:
“My wife Mary is not very well with dementia, and my two daughters and I look after her. For one hour a week, I have a release by going to the weekly Veterans breakfast in Warsop. Rose came along and she asked me ‘How are you?’, so I told her about one or two problems I had.
“My daughters wanted to take their families on holiday, but we couldn’t find any help so I was worried about being left to care for my wife on my own. Rose found us a respite care home that would take both my wife and me. She sorted everything out and was very, very helpful. I had to fill in a few questionnaires and forms so Rose came to my house to help us get them done.
“Mary and I went to the Nightingale at Edwinstowe for one week while our daughters took their families on holiday. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt like a holiday for us two as well. We were chatting with people all the time and we became part of the home life. The wife enjoyed it very much, she was looking round and seeing what’s happening.”
“Now we are also registered as Carers with our local GP surgery. We’ve been assessed and we’re in the system. Two ladies come in twice a day to help Mary get up and then ready for bed. Myself and my eldest daughter always did it, and it had been taking its toll on us. My life is a lot easier now. I can relate to things better. Being a carer is a lonely situation and we didn’t see a lot of people at all. But now we have carers coming in and there’s always a bit of jolly and such.”
“We didn’t know which way to turn before I met Rose. We’ve just looked after Mary and just got on with life. But it’s not till you need help and then you realise you don’t know anything and no one knows you’re a carer. By knowing people and knowing the way rounds, Rose seems to have her finger on the button for a lot of things.
“My advice to others is to join a group, irrespective of what it is. It’s amazing what the outcome of it is.”
Rose explains her approach: “We know that a lot of veterans are affected by poor mental health, so I often go to Veteran Breakfasts to ask how people are and provide support. I helped Brian and is wife to source and locate respite care for one week while his daughters went on holiday with their families. I completed care plans to support the couple’s transition and followed up after the stay to see how they settled in. Mary got her personal care needs met and Brian also enjoyed some freedom and company. They both gained different experiences from their stay, and even had relatives coming to see them for a visit.”
Tony Armstrong, the VCHA’s Widening Scope (Projects) Lead said: “The East Midlands has the third highest population of veterans and nearly 30,000 people in Nottinghamshire have some connection to the UK’s armed forces, so the scale of the need for personalised primary care services is clear. PICS works closely with patients in the community and has a well-earned reputation for providing quality, evidence-based and patient-centric health and wellbeing care. I look forward to continuing work with PICS to expand support for the local veteran and armed forces community.”
Dr Kelvin Lim, Medical Director of PICS and a GP in Eastwood said: “We have an unbreakable commitment to the Armed Forces community and are proud to employ Veterans and members of the Armed Forces community at PICS. It’s very exciting to be the first primary care provider in England to achieve Veteran-Aware accreditation. Thank you to the VCHA for their support, and to local residents for celebrating PICS staff, who work very hard to provide the best possible care and treatment for our valued community.”
Find your local Veteran Breakfast club:
Or contact your GP Surgery and ask to be registered as a Carer or member of the Armed Forces Community.
Notes to the editors:
The VCHA aim is to develop, share and drive the implementation of best practice that will improve armed forces veterans’ care, while at the same time raising standards for everyone. Building on success in hospital and community trusts, the programme piloted Veteran Aware accreditation for the independent sector and hospices, to which PICS signed up to. Details on the VCHA are on its website: https://veteranaware.nhs.uk/
PICS is also a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant, which recently passed into law, is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve, or who have served, in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
PICS also recently became the first organisation in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to be awarded the Carer-friendly Quality Mark as both an employer and service provider.
PICS committed to this principle in March 2022 and have worked with the VCHA and Ministry of Defence to train and encourage all staff to identify members of the community and tailor services for their specific needs. This has included each GP Practices becoming Veteran-Aware in their own right and having dedicated clinicians with specialist knowledge of military related health conditions, as well as recruitment of a network of volunteer Veteran Champions across the organisation.