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Veterans research shortlisted for healthcare excellence awards

The team from the Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans.

A project to improve health and social care for the Armed Forces community has been shortlisted for a major award. 

‘Where are all the veterans? Supporting health and social care personnel to optimise care for the Armed Forces Community’ has been shortlisted in the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards – the largest and most prestigious health awards in the UK. 

The project, by the University of Chester’s Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans, is in the finals for the category of Military and Civilian Health Partnership Award. 

Led by Alan Finnegan, Professor of Nursing and Military Mental Health, the project addressed the problem of poor registration of veterans in Primary Healthcare.  

The initiative included ground-breaking research to utilise veterans PHC (Primary Health Care) data to identify their common mental health issues. In addition, the team designed and scripted a free online evidence based Armed Forces Community (AFC) educational module, hosted on the University’s website, to inform, motivate and empower clinical staff. 

The study saw veteran registration increase by 218% at the 12 GP practices in North West England which took part.

Improving GP registration by veterans is vitally important and subsequent declaration of veteran status ensures that ex-Service personnel can access veteran-specific services that are aimed at addressing service-attributable health problems.

The initiatives included zap stands and posters inside the practices, sending text messages to all registered patients, utilising links with the local community and communications with local care homes. The result was a significant increase in veteran registrations, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, as the research took place during the pandemic.

The research was conducted by Professor Finnegan and Dr Rebecca Randles, and was funded by Forces in Mind Trust. It sets out a series of recommendations for GP practices across the country, to improve veteran registration and care. These included:

  • more consistent coding of medical records with the code ‘Military Veteran’ used across all practices
  • better training of healthcare and administrative staff to gain an understanding of those in the Armed Forces Community and their needs
  • ensuring text message systems are able to send batch messages, with responses automatically coded
  • appointing Veterans Champions within GP practices
  • using internal and external advertising within Primary Healthcare practices and in the community.

The Centre also designed and scripted the free online educational module to improve the knowledge of the future clinical workforce to care for the Armed Forces Community. The module uses animations that require few updates and provides a timeless way of helping people understand the stresses faced by the AFC. The module now has copyright, meaning that the positive outcomes of increased awareness and staff commitment can be enabled across the UK. 

Now in their 42nd year, the HSJ Awards continue to provide an opportunity to shine a light on the outstanding efforts and achievements that individuals and teams across the sector deliver on a daily basis. 

The full list of nominees for the 2022 HSJ Awards can be found at alongside details of the Awards partners; 

The winners will be announced during the Awards ceremony at the Battersea Evolution Centre, London on November 17, 2022. 

Professor Finnegan said:

“I would like to thank everyone who has shown their commitment and dedication to these projects that demonstrate a real difference in providing sustainable improvement to the health and wellbeing of the Armed Forces Community. I am extremely proud that we have been shortlisted for such a prestigious Award.”

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