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Armed Forces Health Partnership

From 2010-2013, The Royal British Legion and Combat Stress, the UK's leading military charity specialising in veterans' mental health, had a 'Strategic Partnership' with the Department of Health, which provided funding for a number of significant projects aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of the Armed Forces community, both directly and via research and collaboration.

This three-year programme of work, steered by a Working Group of representatives from the Service charity sector, Department of Health and MOD, aimed to build knowledge amongst clinicians and service providers on the health effects of Service in the Armed Forces and improve veterans’ pathways to treatment and support.

A website ( was created to provide resources to support a better understanding of Armed Forces and veterans’ health, mental health and social care needs. This website has now closed, but below you can find a summary of the main projects led or supported by the Armed Forces Health Partnership, including a summary of outcomes for the three-year programme.

The Working Group continues to meet regularly, with additional members from MOD, NHS England and Help for Heroes. The Group's Terms of Reference can be read here.

For further information, please contact our Public Affairs & Public Policy team.

Health Innovation Conference

'Armed Forces and Veterans Health: Innovation through coproduction’ (November 2011)

This conference brought together over 120 delegates from the voluntary sector, NHS, Armed Forces Networks, MOD, Personnel Recovery Units and local authorities. It aimed to promote understanding of the healthcare issues faced by the Armed Forces community. This included discussions about the huge amount of activity that had taken place within military health policy in the previous year (eg implementation of the Murrison mental health recommendations and activity emerging from the Armed Forces Covenant being enshrined in law).

Meeting the health care needs of veterans

GPs Veterans HealthcareRoyal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Combat Stress and the Legion’s General Practitioner guidance leaflet, 'Meeting the Healthcare Needs of Veterans: A guide for general practitioners' (September 2010)

This jointly-produced guidance for GPs outlines how best to care for veterans' physical and mental health after they leave the Forces and re-join civilian life. It provides useful advice on medical records and accessing priority treatment, along with dedicated sections on topics such as mental health needs, health behaviours, the provision of prostheses and hospital waiting lists.

‘Unsung Heroes: Developing a better understanding of the emotional support needs of Service families’

UnsungheroesThe Centre for Mental Health was commissioned to produce this report for the Strategic Partners. It examines services already in place for Service personnel, Reservists, their families, and identifies areas in which further evidence is required, on both the need for services to support families and on the effectiveness of these services. Published in May 2012, the full report is available here.

Mental Health Conference: ‘Beyond Fighting Fit’

The Strategic Partnership, with support from South Shropshire and Staffordshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, hosted this event at the Victory Services Club in late April 2013, with the purpose of assessing the progress of Murrison's 'Fighting Fit' report and recommendation. The conference was also an opportunity for the National Veterans' Mental Health Networks to share best practice ideas and consider how best to meet veterans' needs in the future.

Injured Veterans and Families Consultation Event

This Strategic Partnership consultation focused on the current and future healthcare needs of injured veterans and their families. This event in May 2012 aimed to enable user engagement, in order to inform future healthcare strategy for the Government, Service charities and other stakeholders.

The full report emerging from the event was published by Wilson Sherriff in January 2013, and featured illustrations by Paul Richardson. Key issues emerging included:

  • the need to improve partnership working between different agencies involved in veterans' care;
  • the need for better support for families and carers of injured veterans and for improved transition from Service to civilian life; and
  • the need for a clearer framework of responsibility for veterans' healthcare.

The full report is available here. An action plan for the Strategic Partners, the DH and the MOD was also produced, and has been followed up by all parties.

Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) DVD

The Legion and Combat Stress, with Strategic Partnership funding, partnered with the MOD and CTN to support the creation of a new DVD and communications piece to raise awareness of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. This was published in May 2012 and is now delivered to new recruits and personnel pre-deployment. The video can be viewed below or on the Legion's YouTube channel.

2011 online course for GPs

Veterans' Health in General Practice identifies the psychological and physical issues that are commonly faced by veterans and their families and outlines useful resources that can help GPs to improve their care.

Funded by the Department of Health, it is available on the RCGP Online Learning Environment website, and was developed in partnership with the Legion, with support from Changing Faces, the leading UK charity for people who have disfigurements to the face, hands or body from any cause.

Shoulder to Shoulder project

From 2011 onwards, the Strategic Partnership awarded additional funding to the Shoulder to Shoulder Project; an existing initiative run in partnership by TimeBank and Combat Stress.

Shoulder to Shoulder aims to increase the social inclusion of ex-Service personnel recovering from mental health problems through one-to-one peer mentoring. The mentors provide friendship and practical support to members of this vulnerable group, enhancing recovery from mental illness and facilitating better integration into civilian life. Further information on this programme is available here.

Combat Stress 24 Hour Helpline

In response to one of the recommendations of the Murrison 'Fighting Fit' report on military mental health, Combat Stress, in partnership with Rethink and the DH, set up a 24-Hour Helpline (0800 138 1619) for Service personnel, veterans and their families.

Its launch in March 2013 was supported by the Strategic Partnership Programme. Further information is available here.

Department of Health Armed Forces Network Annual Conference

The Strategic Partnership hosted the first Annual Conference of the newly instated DH AFNs in March 2011.

This event brought together 100 representatives from the ten regional AFNs, membership of which spans NHS practitioners and commissioners, Service charities, local government and voluntary sector organisations. The event supported both national and local policy dissemination, as well as learning and capability-building within AFNs.

Legion Research Publications

In 2010-11, the Legion carried out and commissioned extensive research to update its 2005 publication, 'Profile and needs of the ex-Service 2005-2020'. These research pieces included:

2010-2013 Outcomes Summary

Department of Health Strategic Partnership Programme: 2010-2013 Outcomes Summary

This document outlines key outcomes from the three year programme, as well as future aims for the organisations involved.

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