Showing appreciation for our Armed Forces – Dr David Crichton

Armed Forces Day provides an important opportunity for us all to show our appreciation and support for serving troops, service families, veterans and cadets. I can say from personal experience that it provides a real morale boost for the Armed Forces community.

The UK Armed Forces are busy working both around the world – promoting peace, delivering aid, providing security, fighting terrorism – and locally, supporting the response to flooding last year. More recently, they have even been called upon to support the national effort here in the UK to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, Armed Forces Day will be held on Saturday 27 June. It will be the twelfth annual event and the first to be marked virtually due to the coronavirus. Although many planned events have been cancelled, there are still things you can do to show your support and to pay tribute to the armed forces community for their hard work, dedication and efforts to keep us safe.

There will be virtual events on the Armed Forces Day Facebook page and you can join in with #saluteourforcesday. Take a photo or video of your salute and post it on the AFD facebook and twitter pages. You can even watch some short videos to learn to salute like Service Personnel in the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force!

Over the years, we have seen the significant impact that serving in the armed forces can have on both physical and mental health. As child to a serving soldier and being a former Army Regimental Medical Officer, my work as a local GP regularly highlights the experiences which I can relate to.

In Doncaster, we are all committed to supporting those that currently work in or have served in the armed forces. Doncaster continues to be a popular recruiting ground for the forces and, in addition to serving personnel, has thousands of ex-servicemen and women living in the borough, many of whom have on-going health issues.

As a CCG and on behalf of the NHS in Doncaster, we continue to ensure that we address the mental and physical health of our military community. We are committed to the Armed Forces Covenant, a promise by the nation to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.

I’m proud that we have several ex-service personnel representing the views and experiences of thousands of people in Doncaster that have served or continue to service in the armed forces. Individuals like Gary Stapleton have spent several years volunteering as a veterans’ welfare case worker, calling on his experiences since leaving the military.

Gary continues to bring useful insight into how local health services can be accessed by veterans and as an active Health Ambassador in Doncaster, he, along with others, act as a ‘critical friend’ to health and care organisations, sharing views on organisational activities, associated with the delivery of their strategic plans.

GPs in Doncaster have access to a number of resources and tools from the Royal College of General Practitioners, one of which is a source of information supporting GPs to ensure that veterans’ health care needs are addressed. In addition, I am pleased to report that 11 local practices are now registered as veteran friendly. The expectation is to move all health and care services in Doncaster towards recognition and commitment to the Veteran Friendly status and fully utilise the wider specialist services available.

Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust have offered for some time a wide range of services and support for our local military and veteran communities. Improving Access to Psychological Therapies provides support for common mental health problems and can be done on a one to one basis or via structured courses that run regularly. Individuals can be referred for treatment by their local GP or they can self-refer.

Doncaster Royal infirmary also promotes and supports the specific needs of the forces communities.

So as you can see, supporting and improving the health and wellbeing of our military and veteran communities is a collective effort and continues to be one of our local priorities.

Please, show your support for our Armed Forces and veterans on Saturday; it really is appreciated.