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Gloucestershire Business News

Joining forces to support veterans in Stroud district

A Parachute Regiment veteran and Cotswolds GP have joined forces to launch a campaign aimed at improving healthcare for armed forces veterans.

Veteran Jonathan Pape and GP Dr Simon Opher are calling on GP practices across the Stroud district to join a training programme which ensures veterans get the healthcare they need.

Just over half of all veterans have a long-term illness or disability, significantly more than the wider community - and these are frequently not identified by health services, say the two men.

Dr Opher, who runs the May Lane Medical Practice in Dursley, said: "We're working with GP practices across the area to help them deliver the high quality health care our forces veterans need and deserve.

"As Remembrance Day approaches it's an appropriate moment to look at how we support those who've served their country.

"There are 4,200 veterans across the Stroud district with health needs from orthopaedic issues to mental health problems, often related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Ensuring that more GP practices understand how to meet their specific needs will help them, and we know that many of these veterans are not identified by the NHS."

Mr Pape, a former paratrooper who lives in Cam, near Dursley, is working with Dr Opher to ensure that every local GP practice completes training to become accredited for Veteran Care under a programme run by the Royal College of GPs.

To become accredited, GPs undertake extra training to become 'veteran friendly.' The training includes identifying, understanding and referring veterans for NHS service such as the Veterans Trauma Network, mental health services and physiotherapy for injuries sustained in combat.

Mr Pape said: "Through this campaign, Dr Opher and I are hoping to increase the number of accredited practices and offer much needed services to veterans. A veteran includes anybody who has served in either the Regular or Reserve Forces, so this could include a very large number of patients from the age of 18 upwards.

"There are currently only four practices within the Stroud area accredited: Culverhay and Chipping surgeries in Wotton, Frithwood in Bussage, and May Lane Surgery in Dursley."

Dr Opher, who is also the Labour Party's Parliamentary candidate for Stroud, has urged former servicemen and women to ensure their GP is aware that they are a veteran.

"If you are a forces veteran, it's really important to tell your GP," he said. "I believe that the most important medicine is preventative medicine. By registering as a veteran, support may be available that will prevent more serious ill health later on.

"The Veteran Care programme is a great opportunity for GP practices to improve their care. This issue has been raised by patient participation groups in Stroud, and it's really important that we listen to patients and respond to their needs.

"In Stroud, we have a good record of engaging with patient groups and rightly so. I hope that through this campaign, our care for veterans will be dramatically improved."

GP practices across the district are responding to the campaign and are working towards the Veteran Care accreditation.

Dr Robin Blenkarn, a GP in the new Five Valleys Medical Practice in Stroud, said: "We are working towards accreditation so that we can offer veterans the services they need in Stroud. This campaign is being taken up by many practices across the town. Often the injuries and mental strain sustained while in active service have very long term consequences."

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