Who we are

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.

Gary Sell

Gary is the Assistant Regional Lead for the South of England, supporting Anna-Marie and Bernadette.  He moved over to the VCHA from Op Courage London, where he was a Peer Support Worker, within the High Intensity Service. A veteran with lived experience, Gary has served with the Royal Engineers and the Royal Artillery. Accumulating almost a decade of service he has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Since leaving the military on medical grounds having sustained Non-Freezing Cold Injuries Gary struggled with his mental health and homelessness. Having received treatment for PTSD from Walking with The Wounded, Combat Stress and Op Courage, he has invested himself in education and personal development. Completing a BA (Hons) and Masters in Photography as well as a PGCE from UCL, all while receiving treatment and his supported housing. These experiences have informed Gary on the various veteran charities, organisations and services, establishing networks to forming positive relationships. Gary brings renewed perspectives and ideas to better strengthen his roles within the NHS. 

Ethal Sangasinha

Ethal Sangasinha recently joined the VCHA Team as Assistant Regional Lead, North having gained operational experience in various departments of RNOH such as Out-patients, Chronic Pain, and Urology & Spinal Injury Unit since 2012. She led the Urology & Spinal Injury Unit as the Patient Pathway Lead during the Covid 19 pandemic. Her passion for patient care has led her to join the VCHA team to help the armed forces community with better health care and support.

Prior to her migration to the UK in 2010, Ethal worked as an executive attached to Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau for eight years and then as an assistant sales manager attached to Seylan Merchant Bank, Sri Lanka, and also as a senior executive at SITA World Travel, Sri Lanka. Ethal received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, Sociology and Japanese Language from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka in 1998. At present, she is reading for a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Bolton.

Jeremy Dunning

Jeremy is a former local and national journalist who has been working for the NHS in a communications role since 2015.

He joined the VCHA in July 2022 from Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust where he was Senior Communications Officer with responsibility for a number of projects as well as media. 

Jeremy has also worked in local government communications roles as well as for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Prior to this he worked for a variety of newspapers across the south coast.

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.