As we mark Armed Forces Week (19-24 June), the local NHS is reminding members of the Armed Forces community of the NHS services designed and available to meet their needs.
One of the newest services is Op COMMUNITY, a support helpline where the Armed Forces community, including reservists, veterans and their families, can telephone or email to have their health and care questions answered. Run by the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB), Op COMMUNITY means there is one single phone number and one single email address for the Armed Forces community living in Hertfordshire and west Essex to call if they have a medical enquiry and are not sure where to go. People calling into the helpline will be signposted to the most appropriate NHS or community service available in their area.
The helpline can assist with:
- Liaising with other organisations to make sure any existing care taking place in one area, is transferred quickly and efficiently to another area to provide continued care and support
- Seeking ongoing treatment where required especially moving in and out of new quarters
- Providing advice, guidance and support on how to use the NHS, including registering with a GP, especially Veteran Friendly accredited practices
- Directing callers to the people and community organisations that can best help with their enquiries such as social prescribing and the large range of military charities available
Members of the Armed Forces Community who require extra mental health support can benefit from the Op COURAGE service. Provided by the Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust (EPUT), Op COURAGE supports people with anxiety, depression and substance misuse, as well as more advanced mental health conditions and psychological trauma. It also helps address other areas, such as housing, finances and relationships for those it takes on.
Op COURAGE is a veterans mental health and well-being service and is available via self-referral or by asking a family member, friend, GP, or charity to contact Op COURAGE on an individual’s behalf.
Veterans who are in contact with the criminal justice system can receive emotional and practical support from Op NOVA.
Commissioned by the NHS and delivered by the Forces Employment Charity, Op NOVA enables veterans to access specialist support in areas including health, housing and employment. Both Op COURAGE and Op NOVA are dedicated East of England regional services.
Dr Jane Halpin, Chief Executive at Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: “The ICB is working hard with partners to ensure veterans living in the area can access healthcare quickly and easily. We know it can be challenging to know where to turn, but the Op COMMUNITY service will support them whatever their healthcare enquiry.”
Harper Brown, Director of Integrated Specialist Care at Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB), added: “Our Armed Forces perform an invaluable service to the country and our communities. It is only right that we provide them with the care and support they need for their physical and mental wellbeing.”
“By bringing together NHS providers and charities to offer support through dedicated channels such as Op COMMUNITY, Op COURAGE and Op NOVA, callers can be assured they will receive the help they need in a timely manner, with compassion and understanding.”
Veteran and Armed Forces support does not end with the NHS. Local authorities also have a range of support available including housing, employment and social care.
Essex County Council marked Armed Forces week by raising the Armed Forces flag at County Hall, Chelmsford on Monday (19 June). The council also has a range of support on its website. To find out more about support available for the Armed Force in Hertfordshire, visit the Hertfordshire Heroes website.
Members of the Armed Forces community who want to contact the NHS services can contact:
- Op COMMUNITY: Service personnel, veterans, and their families and carers can access the support by calling the helpline on 07908 209912 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or emailing hcns.HWE-AFCfamiliesveterans@nhs.net.
- Op COURAGE: Referrals can be made by calling 0300 034 9991 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also available at eput.nhs.uk/OpCOURAGE.
- Op NOVA: Veterans in need of its services are advised to call freephone 0800 9177 299 or email email@example.com. The helpline operates on Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, and on Saturdays from 8.30am to 2pm. More information is available on the Forces Employment charity website.