Sussex Partnership marks Armed Forces Day with Veteran Aware accreditation

Sussex Partnership has become one of the first mental health trusts in the UK to gain accredited ‘Veterans Aware’ status.

The announcement, which recognises Sussex Partnership’s commitment to improving NHS mental health care for serving members of the armed forces, veterans and reservists, comes as residents across Sussex prepare to mark Armed Forces Day on Saturday 29 June.

Sussex Partnership joins Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust as one of only two mental health trusts to be awarded the accreditation, which is granted by the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA). Thirty six acute hospital trusts have also received the accreditation.

It comes after the Trust, a founder member of the Sussex Armed Forces Network, established the Sussex Armed Forces Community and launched the London and South East Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison (TIL) Service in partnership with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. 

The Veteran Aware mark highlights NHS trusts that have made a series of pledges, such as ensuring members of the armed forces community are never disadvantaged when receiving care, training staff on veteran-specific needs, and supporting the armed forces as an employer. 

Veteran Aware hospitals are also expected to display posters in their clinics and waiting rooms, highlighting their status and encouraging members of the armed forces community to identify themselves to staff. 

Sam Allen, Chief Executive at Sussex Partnership, said: “We are so proud to be one of the first NHS mental health trusts in the country to receive the Veterans Aware accreditation. It’s testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff, who recognised that there was a need in our local communities and took the initiative to work with them to understand how we, and other organisations, could better support armed forces veterans.  

“Being Veteran Aware is all about improving the healthcare that veterans receive. At Sussex Partnership we have a range of support available, from our specialist Veterans’ Transition, Liaison and Advice Service, to our more informal Sussex Armed Forces Community, a growing network of staff members, ex-service personnel, reservists and family members who offer peer-led support through drop ins, events and social activities. We’re also part of ‘Step into Health’, an initiative that helps ex-service personnel gain employment or work experience in the Trust, bringing a huge range of experience and transferrable skills to the NHS.

“We hope that this recognition will reassure veterans living in our local communities that we are committed to giving them the right support, and will give them confidence that our staff understand their needs and can offer them the right help at the right time.”

Nick Lake, Sussex Partnership’s Director of Clinical Strategy and Chair of the Sussex Armed Forces Network, said: “Veterans Aware is a great initiative, and one that we are delighted to be a part of. Meeting the health and care needs of our local veterans community is one of our top priorities, and this accreditation ensures we keep their particular needs at the heart of the care we provide. 

“Achieving this accreditation is fantastic, but it is really just the beginning for us. We will continue our work through the Sussex Armed Forces Network, of which we are a founding member, and the Sussex Armed Forces Community, to maximise the potential for veterans to live full and meaningful lives. This means providing them with easy access to high quality care and treatment, working with partner organisations to ensure veterans can move seamlessly through the full range of services they need, and developing our network of armed forces champions to support our staff to be aware of, and work with, the specific needs of veterans.” 

The VCHA was inspired by the heroism of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC and Bar, a doctor who gave his life rescuing men on the battlefields of the First World War.

In 2014, leading orthopaedic surgeon Professor Tim Briggs CBE wrote The Chavasse Report on improving armed forces and veteran care while raising NHS standards, which recommended establishing a support network of hospitals. The resulting VCHA works closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement, service charities and the Ministry of Defence, and is managed by the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme.

Professor Briggs, Chair of GIRFT and NHS National Director for Clinical Improvement and Chair of the VCHA, commented: “It is very fitting to mark Armed Forces Day by welcoming three more trusts to the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance. Sussex Partnership has made great strides in improving the care it provides to the servicemen and women of this country, and should be very proud.”

For more about Veterans Aware visit gettingitrightfirsttime.co.uk/veterans