The team

Professor Tim Briggs CBE

Professor Briggs qualified from The Royal London Hospital in 1982 with honors in surgery and a number of prizes.  After his senior registrar training he was appointed to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital as Consultant in 1992.  His specialist interests are in orthopaedic oncology as well as surgery to the hip and knee.  He was Medical Director at the RNOH for 15 years, ensuring a re-build and was President of the British Orthopaedic Association in 2014. 

He was appointed as National Director for Clinical Quality and Efficiency for the NHS in September 2015 and has been asked to lead and roll out his GIRFT methodology, developed in orthopaedics, across all surgical and medical specialties within the provider network. 

Professor Briggs was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List for services to the surgical profession.

In January 2019 he was appointed as National Director for Clinical Improvement and Recovery for NHS England.   In addition, he is the National Chair and Lead for the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA) and is Honorary Colonel of 202 Midlands Field Hospital.

Lt Col (Retd)
Guy Benson

Guy Benson is a retired Army Officer (Royal Signals).   His military career spans 40 years. As a soldier and officer he has extensively travelled the world.   He has deployed operationally to Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.   He ended his regular service career as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Ministry of Defence, London.     

He transitioned from the regular army in 2011 to a full time army reserve role and was employed as the Army Head of Engagement in the North East, London and finally the South West.  

In 2018 he left military service and was employed by Wiltshire Council as the Military Civil Integration lead working directly to the Leader and Chief Executive on all military related matters.   He joined the NHS in January 2021 and is the VCHA Team Leader.

Bernadette Knight

Bernadette Knight is an experienced senior NHS manager who has been a registered nurse for 40 years.  Joining the NHS and training at the University of Wales, she specialised in intensive care nursing (ICU) and worked in Cardiff, London (where she gained a post graduate ICU diploma) and Bristol before moving into clinical research.  There followed a period outside the NHS in national/regional roles as Deputy Head of Nursing and Head of Care for private and third sector providers where she also gained qualification and membership  of the  Institute for Learning and Management.  She returned to NHS management in acute, community, ambulance, mental health and primary care for both commissioners and providers focussing on quality and patient safety and service improvement. 

Bernadette is formally trained in quality improvement methodology, project management and information management.

Most recently she has been working for GIRFT across multiple specialities including the VCHA programme, in implementation and project management for the last 3 years.

Maj (Retd)
David B Wood

David served 34 years as both a soldier and army officer, initially as a clerk in the Royal Pioneers before compulsory transfer to the Adjutant Generals Corps (Staff and Personnel Support) Branch in 1992.  David has served at Regimental Duty and at Staff, with tours in Northern Ireland, Germany, Canada and Hong Kong and deployed operationally to Rwanda and Iraq.    

After service he was appointed as the Armed Forces Lead on the south west local authority Armed Forces Covenant Project, which saw the formation of a regional mobile veterans outreach service and a Strategic Level Partnership Board.  He was appointed as a member of the south west Veterans Pensions and Advisory Committees in Jan 2020.   

Joining the VCHA in 2021, David brings a wealth of both military and public service to his role, where he is Regional Lead for the Midlands and the East of England.   

Anna-Marie Tipping

Anna-Marie Tipping is a Royal Navy veteran, with an Undergraduate and Postgraduate degree in Forensic Psychology. Anna-Marie’s compassionate, yet driven approach to veteran healthcare, helped to improve veteran data capture within Primary and Secondary mental health services within the NHS. She understands the challenges of veterans being identified in healthcare, having met these challenges herself.

Anna-Marie has a keen interest in data driven methodologies being used to drive project creation and implementation, using best practice and enthusiastic data sharing to learn from others. Having worked on the ground with the Armed Forces community and in clinical settings, these transferable skills mean that across sectors, services and organisations; information can be shared in easily accessible formats that are relevant and useable for the intended audience.

Anna-Marie lives in Fleet with her boyfriend, dog, cat and rabbit. She enjoys festivals, gaming, and is a self-confessed plant hoarder.

Mandy Stokes

Mandy Stokes has 26 years’ experience working in the NHS, with a Business Management position in Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Strategic Health Authority and Incident Support Officer in Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust. Her most recent position was that of Senior Support Manager in the Armed Forces Health Commissioning Team within NHS England, commissioning secondary health care for serving members of the armed forces and specifically commissioned veterans’ mental health services.  Having two siblings that have served in both the British Army and The Royal Navy, the importance of ensuring that those serving, have served and their families/carers face no disadvantage and are paid due regard in the commissioning and provision of NHS services is very close to home.


Mandy has previously worked with South Gloucestershire Council in providing voluntary mentorship to young offenders, whose relationship with their own family has broken down.  Mandy lives in South Gloucestershire, has two sons and endeavours to reach 10,000 steps a day in the rural countryside around her. 

Tony Armstrong

Tony is a British Army Veteran of 24 years, enlisting in 1986 at Junior Leaders Regiment (Royal Armoured Corps) as a musician with subsequent assignment to 14/20th King’s Hussars in Münster, Germany with overseas tours in Northern Ireland, Canada and Berlin. He also deployed with the regiment on Op Granby in 1990 where he served as a Combat Medical Technician with the Regimental Aid Post during the Liberation of Kuwait.

Further operational tours included Op Agricola in 1999, attached to 1 Armoured Medical Regiment in Kosovo and Op Telic in 2003 with 24 Medical Squadron (3 Medical Regt).

He was also assigned to the Light Cavalry Band in Bovington, Dorset supporting the public face of the British Army and Defence, touring in the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Since leaving the Army in 2009, Tony has worked across the Public and Third sectors. He was the Youth Development Manager at the national youth volunteering charity Vinspired and before joining VCHA he managed the Government’s Kickstart Scheme at Dorset County Hospital NHS Trust.

Tony is married to Helen, an Executive Headteacher and has two daughters, Lucy who is a management consultant with the NHS and Kate, currently studying Law at Southampton.

Emma Roche

Emma trained as a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) Practitioner, which enabled her to work creatively with vulnerable adults and their families, volunteers, staff, trustees and key stakeholders. She has significant experience in delivering therapeutic interventions to individuals living through trauma and bereavement. Her work has enabled her to bring about positive change both on an individual and at an organisational level, whilst building a reputation for professionalism and integrity. 

Emma is the proud partner of an Armed Forces veteran. She is committed to champion and advocate for improvements to the care available to, and accessed by, the Armed Forces community. 

Laura McKain

Laura obtained a BA (hons) in Mental Health Nursing at Oxford Brookes University and qualified as a Mental Health Nurse in 2001. Her career has covered inpatient and community work, working for 10 years in the substance misuse field before working as part of Op Courage therapy pathway for six years.
Laura joined the Veteran Aware team in May 2024 as a Regional Lead covering the Midlands and East of England regions. Laura is passionate about equality and fairness which has attracted her to improving the care and service provision for veterans. 

Kate Barnett

Kate joined the Veteran Aware team in March 2024. Prior to this Kate was the dedicated communications and engagement manager for Armed Forces healthcare at NHS England where she led on national campaigns and naming engagements for the ‘Op’ services.

Kate has been part of a service family for nearly 20 years and has recently been invited to join the NHS England Armed Forces Patient and Public Voice (PPV) group.

Kate’s original career was in retail management before having children, after which she retrained in adult facilitation and as a yoga teacher, working self employed for ten years.

Linus Cosgrove

Linus trained as a physiotherapist, graduating from St. Georges University of London in 2013. Initially, he work in a private clinic in a Japanese ski resort for a year. He then returned to London and worked across a variety of specialities within the NHS – community and inpatient rehab, MSK and inpatient orthopaedics, alongside volunteering with rugby clubs (Pinner RFC & Harlequins Academy). This gave him an excellent overview of the importance of effective rehabilitation pathways within the NHS. 

Linus has a passion for improving people’s access to healthcare, particularly good quality rehabilitation and has worked on several service development projects across these roles, gaining the skills to effectively assess and implement change where necessary.  

Linus is a stereotypical physiotherapist in terms of hobbies, enjoying cycling, hiking, rock climbing and snowboarding. 

Helen Hurst RGN QN

Helen has a varied Nursing Career that spans over 36 years, qualifying in 1990 from West Middlesex University Hospital, working in Cardiac and General Intensive Care and for the last 20 years as a General Practice Nurse (GPN).

Helen completed a GPN Leadership course with NHS England, which led to her being awarded the Ted Fort Prize from the Charlie Waller Memorial Fund for introducing an Emotional Health Check for the Military Veterans registered at The Orchard Surgery in Bromborough Wirral. Helen was awarded her Queen’s Nurse appointment in 2020 in recognition of commitment to high standards of patient care and continually improving practice from the Queen’s Nursing Institute.

She was the Clinical Lead for the Veteran Friendly program at The Orchard Surgery and supported the Remembrance campaign with the RCGP Veteran Friendly GP accreditation scheme, to raise the awareness of the programme to other GP Practices and the difference it makes being Veteran Friendly. She comes from a Military Family; her Father served with the Army Catering Corps, her Mother in the Territorial Army and her cousin still serves with the Royal Artillery.

Helen joined the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA) in January 2024 and is working on widening scope to include the VCHA accreditation of the Independent sector and hospices for our Armed Forces community.

Helen has two children and has just moved back to the Southwest where she grew up and can now enjoy hiking on Dartmoor and sea swimming.