As the nation marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is celebrating being part of the first wave of new ‘Veteran Aware’ hospitals.
This mark of distinction means that patients who have served in the UK armed forces will be cared for by frontline staff who have received training and education on their specific needs, such as around mental health, and who can signpost them to local support services.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is one of the 24 acute hospital trusts accredited by the Veterans Covenant Hospital Alliance (VCHA) to lead the way in improving NHS care for veterans and members of the armed forces community by:
- Providing training to staff to be aware of veterans’ specific needs;
- Making past and present servicemen and women aware of appropriate charities or NHS services beneficial to them, such as mental health services or support with financial and/or benefit claims;
- Ensuring that the armed forces community is never disadvantaged compared to other patients, in line with the NHS’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant.
Deputy Director of Nursing JuIie McDonald and Veteran Aware lead said:
“It is an absolute honour to be chosen by the VCHA to be part of the first wave of Veteran Aware hospitals to further improve NHS care for veterans and members of the armed forces community. Through our involvement, we look forward to making a real difference to many lives.”
Some of the first hospitals being announced as ‘Veteran Aware’ already have significant links with the military, while others are getting involved for the first time. Trusts which are accredited as ‘Veteran Aware’ will display posters in their clinics and public waiting areas urging anyone who has served in the armed forces to make themselves known to staff.
Kath Griffin, the Trust’s Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development and Executive Lead for the Trust’s work with the Armed Forces, added:
“It is very important to City Hospitals Sunderland and our partner South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust that we support defence and the armed forces community and inspire others to do the same. Both Trusts have signed the Government’s Armed Forces Covenant, which represents a promise that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly.
“Sunderland is the holder of the Employer Recognition Scheme Gold award – the Ministry of Defence’s prestigious badge of honour for organisations which have demonstrated outstanding support for the armed forces community – and South Tyneside was awarded Silver earlier this year and is working towards Gold. We recognise that being a forces-friendly employer enables us to benefit from the wide range of skills and experiences of reservists and veterans, coupled with the self-confidence, resourcefulness and positive attitude they gain through service in the forces.”
City Hospitals Sunderland has received the ‘Veteran Aware’ hospital accreditation from the Veterans Covenant Hospital Alliance which is made up of national bodies, including NHS Improvement, NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Defence, and the Confederation of Service Charities.
The ‘Veteran Aware’ accreditation was inspired by the heroism of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC, a doctor who gave his life rescuing men on the battlefields of the First World War. In 2014, leading orthopaedic surgeon Professor Tim Briggs CBE wrote The Chavasse Report on improving armed forces and veteran care while raising NHS standards, which recommended establishing a support network of hospitals.
Professor Tim Briggs, National Director for Clinical Quality and Efficiency at NHS Improvement and Co-Chair of the Veterans Covenant Hospitals Alliance, said:
“I applaud City Hospitals Sunderland for becoming one of the first in the country to be accredited as ‘Veteran Aware’.
“People who have served in the armed forces can often have specific and varied needs and so, we must do everything we can to ensure the NHS continues to support those who have given so much for our country.
“As we mark the Armistice centenary, we are calling on other trusts to lead by this example and apply for their accreditation so that they can guarantee they are doing the exactly same.”