FORCES for CHANGE: What is ‘priority treatment’ for veterans?

Peter Martin, Senior Policy Adviser, Hafal

This summer the FORCES for CHANGE campaign has seen us working in partnership with a range of mental health, carers and veterans charities and organisations to reach out to veterans in Wales with a mental health problem.

One of our Facebook followers pointed out that both veterans and healthcare professionals may be unaware that veterans have a right to priority healthcare treatment if their mental illness is service-related.

Peter Martin, Senior Policy Adviser at Hafal, explained: “I helped develop this guidance relating to the priority treatment and healthcare for veterans when I worked for the then Welsh Assembly Government back in 2008.

“The guidance is still current today. It sent out a signal that the Government in Wales was determined to do as much as possible to support veterans and their families, and ensure people received timely and high quality services.

“Although not everyone who is a veteran necessarily wants to declare themselves as such, the guidance gave people the opportunity, if they wished, to discuss this entitlement with their GP during consultation for treatment of a condition related to service.

“There continues now to be a strong commitment to do everything possible to provide help, advice and support to veterans and their families in recognition of the service they have given to their country.”

We also talked to a Welsh Government spokesperson who emphasised the importance of veterans registering with a GP practice and telling the doctor they have served in the armed forces.

“If the doctor considers the veteran’s condition to be a result of their service, they should, with the veteran’s agreement, make this clear in their referral to a secondary care clinician,” they said.

“If the clinician agrees with the doctor’s opinion then the veteran will be entitled to priority treatment. This does not mean they will jump to the front of the queue, but they will have priority over others with the same level of clinical need.”

Health professionals can find further guidance in the Welsh Health Circular WHC (2008) 051 Priority Treatment and Healthcare for Veterans.

Further details about the FORCES for CHANGE campaign can be found at www.forcesforchange.wales

Matt Pearce