After the successful implementation of our Aged Veteran Welfare Support Projects in Greater Manchester and Avon & Somerset last year, the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS) is delighted that this unique service is now also available to veterans in Herefordshire and Nottinghamshire.

DMWS has provided medical welfare support to the Armed Forces community for over 70. With the number of aged veterans continuously growing, there is an increased demand for our professional service to support this community when they are receiving medical treatment. In response, DMWS now leads the project that sees 10 organisations deliver health and wellbeing support and activities to veterans aged 65 and over, their families and carers in Herefordshire and Nottinghamshire. The project has been funded by the Aged Veterans Fund and the grant awarded to DMWS subsidises welfare officers who will be embedded within NHS Trusts in the two counties.

Any hospital admissions or a programme of treatment can be a stressful and daunting experience. Being an older veteran can bring its own set of challenges; returning home from combat, this community did not receive the same level of support as is standard today. This is thought to have led to undetected mental and physical health conditions, as well as difficulty to transition back into civilian life resulting in other problems such as marriage breakdown, unemployment and homelessness. Combined with the transient nature of service life, veterans are less likely to have family nearby or a long established support network, leading to loneliness and isolation; all of which can hamper recovery.

As a generation that was trained not to show weakness, this group may not highlight health problems when they arise nor question medical staff, as they see it as a sign of weakness. However, the health needs of this group are significant; in general, veterans often experience physical health issues linked to their service, such as combat related injuries and back problems from carrying heavy equipment, ear, nose and throat problems, sleep disorders and chronic pain problems as well as mental health problems.

The benefit of providing additional welfare to veterans has now been recognised. DMWS welfare officers are available for the Herefordshire and Nottinghamshire aged veteran community to offer practical and emotional support when they receive medical treatment. The aim is to improve mental wellbeing, encourage a positive approach to treatment, reduce social isolation, and promote independence which can lead to earlier hospital discharge. Our person-centred service is tailored to the individual needs of the patient and their family. Some examples of the support we provide are:

  • A confidential, impartial and non-judgemental ‘Listening Ear Service’
  • Bedside visits
  • Help with resolving any medical care issues and to understand treatment
  • Supporting patients and families when talking with medical teams
  • Providing patient’s family with emotional and practical support
  • Accompanying and supporting patients at Outpatient Appointments
  • Intelligent signposting to other organisations for support
  • Help to make sure that support and services in place when patient’s leave hospital
  • Telephone support and follow up post discharge

Lisa Leece, Head of Commissioning and Performance at DMWS, said: “We are really pleased to be working with Herefordshire and Nottinghamshire County Council on the project that will bring together services to help improve the wellbeing of the aged veterans community. 

“Over 60 per cent of our welfare officers are from an Armed Forces background and all of our officers are specially trained in this field. This gives them a real sense of understanding and enables them to fully support patients from the Armed Forces community”.

From left to right: Mark Lucas (Welfare Officer, Herefordshire), Bethany Parham (Welfare Officer, Herefordshire), Beverly Young (Area Manager), Tanner Gibbins-Klein (Welfare Officer, Nottinghamshire), Nathan Cumberland (Welfare Officer, Nottinghamshire), John Walker (Welfare Officer Herefordshire and Nottinghamshire)

Meet the Team in Herefordshire:

  • Bethany Parham

Beth has worked in the welfare sector for many years and said: “I am really looking forward to working for the DMWS’ Aged Veterans project in Herefordshire. I grew up within the army community and I am excited to be working with those who have served. I hope that all my previous experience working in the welfare sector will allow me to offer the best possible support to those who have served.”

  • Mark Lucas
    During his 24 year Army Career Mark completed 7 operational tours and spent 12 years as an instructor working with young recruits and trained soldiers. During his last 3 years he supported soldiers and their families on welfare related issues. He is a keen sportsman, has two daughters and lives on the Gloucester / Herefordshire border. He said: “Being a veteran myself, it is so rewarding to now work for a charity that can make a real difference to the lives of aged veterans, their families and carers.”

Meet the Team in Nottinghamshire:

  • Nathan Cumberland

Nathan served it the British Army for 10 years. On his 3rd tour of Afghanistan he stepped on an IED which resulted in losing both his legs. He spent a long and difficult time in rehab. He then worked for Help for Heroes, competed at two Invictus Games before returning to work within a welfare role. He said: “Having been on the receiving end of some amazing welfare support I wanted to see what the other side looked like. Welfare became a passion and supporting aged veterans in the area where I was born and lived all my life is extremely rewarding.”

  • Tanner Gibbins-Klein

Coming from a clinical background, Tanner is experienced in making healthcare accessible and understandable to people from all backgrounds. Tanner said: “I believe that the Aged Veterans project is very special, it ensures that those who supported the UK through military service are listened to, respected and cared for when receiving medical care.”

HOW TO CONTACT US

If you are a member of clinical staff, patient or a family member dealing with a veteran who would benefit from our service, you can contact us free on:

Phone: 0800 999 3697
Email: [email protected]