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The Veteran Friendly GP Practice Accreditation Programme Evaluation, led by the University’s Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans, assessed whether accredited Primary Healthcare practices could better identify, treat and refer veterans, where appropriate, to dedicated NHS services.

The evaluation by the University used mixed-methods of research and examined both positive outcomes and outstanding challenges found during the research. The project has reached the finals of the North West Coast Research and Innovation awards, which are aimed at a variety of stakeholders including NHS partner organisations, industry partners, academic partners who have worked with or are working with the Innovation Agency; NIHR (National Institute for Health and Care Research) Network North West Coast and the Applied Research Collaboration North West.

The Veteran Friendly GP Practice Accreditation programme was launched in June 2019 as part of a National Health Service (NHS) 10-year plan to improve veteran engagement in Primary Health Care.

An independent evaluation was required to assess the impact the programme was having on both the veteran and the practice, including the delivery of the programme itself. The evaluation, commissioned by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and funded by NHS England, started in May 2021 with surveys and interviews carried out with veteran leads from across the different practices

The positive outcomes of the evaluation demonstrate that veterans receive better Primary Health Care when staff understand their needs and they are also more likely to be successfully signposted to veteran specific services.

The programme was well-received by Primary Health Care staff, with 99% of survey respondents stating that they would recommend the programme. As a direct result of these findings, the accreditation programme has been further extended meaning further improvements in Primary Health Care for veterans will continue.

The evaluation showed that 84% of survey respondents have greater appreciation of veterans since becoming accredited. Enhanced knowledge of veteran specific services by Veterans Leads in Primary Health Care is of great benefit to veterans, who themselves often have little understanding of the provision available to them. Primary Health Care teams ask patients if they have ever served to enable them to record veterans in their practices and then can bridge the gap between veterans and the support that is available to them.

Primary Health Care staff also appear motivated to engage with the programme and as time goes on, the number of veterans registering with accredited practices will likely increase. Some GP practices have developed veteran specific resource databases, highlighting their commitment to engage with the programme.

A peer-reviewed research article has been published in the British Journal of General Practice Open and the findings have also been presented at the King’s College London Veterans Mental Health Conference.

Professor of Nursing and Military Mental Health and Director of the Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans, Alan Finnegan, said: “I am extremely proud of all my team, and in particular Kate Salem and Lottie Ainsworth-Moore, who have worked so hard to deliver this project, which is making a real difference in helping veterans access the right services. I am really proud that we have made the final shortlist for these esteemed awards which recognise best practice in the sector.”


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