Former members of the armed forces in Wales are being urged to ensure they let their GP know that they have served their country as they may be entitled to priority treatment.
There are an estimated 149,000 former service men and women living in Wales and a Welsh Government campaign to mark Armed Forces Day (29 June) is aimed at ensuring all veterans get the services they are entitled to.
Veterans are entitled to receive priority access to NHS treatment for any conditions which are a result of their time in military service, including Regulars, Reservists and those who did National Service.
Health and social care workers may not be aware of the former military status of their patients or clients. It is important they can identify veterans to provide the appropriate support. Some veterans either don’t consider it relevant to disclose, or may not even consider themselves veterans.
Veterans are former members of the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, or the Merchant Navy and fishermen who served in a vessel that supported a military operation by HM Forces.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“In Wales we are committed to the Armed Services Covenant that recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces and their families, and it establishes how they should expect to be treated.
“Ensuring that the men and women who have served their country in our hour of need receive the support they and their families need in their hour of need is part of our commitment to them.”
Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Hannah Blythyn said:
“When health services can identify veterans, they can support them effectively. As well as prioritising them for treatment, they can access Veterans NHS Wales, a specific mental health service geared to their needs. There are also specific amputee services available to veterans in Wales, amongst other services. It’s vital that veterans identify themselves to healthcare professionals, so they can get the right support when they need it.”
Where the referring GP and consultant agree that the patient’s condition is related to their military service they have been asked to prioritise veterans over other patients with the same level of clinical need. Veterans will not be given priority over other patients with more urgent clinical needs.
Identifying the individual as a veteran can help with the appropriate prioritisation of access to NHS services and ensure that any potential physical and mental health and social issues are explored.
The campaign is supported by the Royal British Legion.
Ant Metcalfe, the Legion’s Area Manager for Wales said “Veterans are entitled to priority access to NHS care for conditions associated to their time in the Armed Forces. I would encourage all veterans to highlight their time in service to their GPs and other healthcare providers to ensure that it is taken into consideration.