The Little Troopers Blog


Veterans Aware with Anna-Marie Tipping

Navigating the healthcare system can be complex, but when you’re part of the Armed Forces community, there are additional layers to consider.


Anna-Marie Tipping, Regional Lead at the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance, tells us more about the Veteran Aware accreditation programme, and how it is designed to make sure that all forces families receive the quality healthcare they deserve.


Why can accessing healthcare be challenging for forces families?

Service life is rewarding, but it also comes with unique challenges, especially when it relates to healthcare. Frequent relocations can disrupt time spent on waiting lists and ongoing treatments, leading to delays and potential complications. Different areas may also have varying healthcare services or access criteria, which could result in a lack of access to specialised services that were previously available.


How does the Armed Forces Covenant aim to address these issues and can you tell us more about Veterans Aware?

The Armed Forces Covenant Duty is more than just a document; it’s a national commitment that those who serve or have served, and their families, should face no disadvantage when accessing services, including healthcare. It gives clear guidelines to healthcare providers on how the Covenant Duty should be administered.


The Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance contributes to upholding the Covenant by accrediting healthcare providers, including NHS trusts, hospices, care homes and third sector organisations, who can demonstrate their support for service families. Veteran Aware means that the organisation is aware of, and understands, its commitment of the Duty to the Armed Forces community. Despite its name, Veteran Aware is about supporting all service and ex-service families.


How do healthcare settings achieve Veteran Aware accreditation?

To earn this accreditation, providers must meet eight rigorous standards, which range from staff training in the needs of the Armed Forces community to establishing strong links with relevant services. You can find out more about these standards here.


Veteran Aware accredited Trusts must have designated Armed Forces Leads and Champions and they must have a good understanding of the unique challenges faced by the Armed Forces community, such as waiting lists, variation in service provision and an understanding of the additional referral routes that may support a family, such as Op COMMUNITY.


Where do healthcare professionals start?

The first crucial step in the journey is being able to identify when someone is from an Armed Forces background. We can all actively encourage members of the Armed Forces community to identify themselves whenever they access healthcare; through their GP, the paediatric A&E or their community nursing team. However, it’s also important that healthcare settings build identification into their patient journey. Settings should also encourage under-represented groups to identify themselves as members of the community to make sure that they are using all of the services they are entitled to.


Are there any best practice examples you can share?

Institutions like Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, and the Oak Centre for Children and Young People are leading the way. Others, such as Great Ormond Street and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, are in the process of meeting these standards.

Alder Hey identifies its patients through admission and discharge documentation, and also engages with local charities and cadet units. They additionally take into consideration the role of the family in their employment practices and staff wellbeing.


What’s next once an organisation has achieved accreditation?

The accreditation is not just a badge. Earning the Veteran Aware accreditation is not the end, but the beginning of a journey towards continuous improvement. Trusts are required to undergo regular audits to make sure they maintain high standards. Feedback from forces families serves as a vital tool in this ongoing process. We encourage members of the Armed Forces community to reach out to their hospital’s PALS (Patient Access and Liaison Service) to give feedback and offer advice on what meaningful changes would make families’ health outcomes better and more equitable.


How can you help?

I facilitate a regional support network, where we share best practice and help providers link to other services that may support their patients. I can also help healthcare settings to achieve accreditation and take those first steps to making sure that Armed Forces families receive consistent and high-quality healthcare services.

For more information visit  https://veteranaware.nhs.uk/

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