Veteran Aware status awarded to University Hospitals Bristol and Weston

A Royal Navy sailor prepares the ropes at first light. HMS Medway arrives in Jacksonville, Florida for a scheduled maintenance period

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) has become one of the latest NHS trusts to be accredited as Veteran Aware, formally recognising their commitment to the armed forces community.

Accreditation was carried out by the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA), which is a group of NHS healthcare providers in England, who are committed to providing the best standards of care for the armed forces, past, present and their families in England based on the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Armed Forces Covenant 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.

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.

The accreditation of UHBW means that 136 NHS providers across England are now Veteran Aware accredited, and the alliance aims to have all Trusts accredited by the end of 2023.

UHBW has a combined workforce of more than 13,000 staff and delivers more than 100 different clinical services across 10 different sites to more than 500,000 people.

Figures from the 2021 Census show that around 10,000 people living in the area had previously served in the armed forces, while the total UK armed forces veteran population in England and Wales is just over 1.85 million. Within Bristol alone are four Reservist bases and MoD Abbey Wood, while there are several more Reservist bases across the area. Given it is also a regional centre for multiple specialities their potential armed forces population is potentially much bigger.

Nationally, almost one-third (31.8% or 589,640) of veterans were aged 80 years and over, reflecting National Service and War Service from 1939 to 1960. This can be compared with 5.1% or 2,380,350 people who were aged 80 years and over in the non-veteran population.

VCHA Regional Lead Bernadette Knight said: “I am delighted with the work by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston in achieving this accreditation award. The quality of your accreditation submission reflects the depth to which Veteran Aware accreditation is now building in wider Trust business, I am so pleased that the commitment of the Trust with the Armed Forces agenda has been recognised in this way.”

VCHA Chairman, Prof Tim Briggs CBE, said: “More and more Trusts are seeing the value of Veteran Aware accreditations as seen through the numbers of Trusts that are now accredited. We now stand at 65% of NHS Trusts across England, which is a testament both to the dedication of my team and to the wider NHS family who work tirelessly on behalf of the military community despite the many pressures they will be under. Well done all.”

Emma Wood, Chief People Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re very proud to have achieved ‘Veteran Aware’ status at UHBW. Being supportive and respectful are two of our Trust values, which are exemplified in our approach to caring for veterans, including those that present with conditions associated with service in the UK armed forces.

“As part of this, the Trust is forming a staff Veterans Oversight Group to bring together people with insights and experience of UK armed forces. This will be a vital resource that helps develop trust policies and initiatives. Together, we continuously aim to ensure appropriate services are available for current or previous members of the armed forces at UHBW.”

The VCHA programme is also now piloting the Veteran Aware accreditation of both the independent sector and hospices.

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