Update from Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership (NVFP) meeting 19 Feb 2014
I see my role as taking issues forward and contributing towards the involvement of care programmes for Veterans and civilians. It's important to understand that this group also looks at the issues of partners and dependents of Veterans - which includes loved ones acting as carers.
I will share information here to keep you aware of developments and issues that arise. I am not a politician ... and have absolutely no interest in becoming one. The point of sharing the information here is to give YOU a voice. If you feel that you're not happy about something or if you can come up with ideas and initiatives to help us to achieve the key objectives ... or if you feel there is a better way to do something ... then please comment on the blog. If you have any concerns about being identified, please contact me via Facebook on https://www.facebook.com/Wolf.Photographer and I can keep your identity confidential and still pass on your contribution towards the work of the group. This initiative cannot succeed without your involvement. Your contribution will help us to get the issues right ... but most importantly it may go a long way towards lessening your suffering as well as those people coming down the line after us that are carrying invisible wounds.
There was clear frustration expressed by most of the Voluntary Veteran led groups in attendance. There was a general feeling that we were taking one step forwards and two steps back. We felt it was inexcusable that the group has been meeting for three years or so now and that there was still not any branding, leaflets, posters or a website that is publicly viewable.
We also felt that this was now an NHS led group facilitating NHS funding objectives rather than seeing to the holistic issues surrounding the care and well being of Veterans.
The Chair's response was as follows:
He felt our frustration and understood our concerns. The group is not NHS specific in any way. If we want items discussed, we should contact the group secretary and have them placed on the agenda. He recognised that some of us wanted this group to be able to lobby the NHS and the Government for change but that this wasn't the remit of this group.
The Chair made it clear that all of the partner organisations in the NVFP will be eligible for some funding for their own projects.
Re-diagnosis of Patients transferring from other counties
I've asked for this item to be placed on the agenda. I and some of my colleagues will be making it clear that it's not necessary where a patient transfers with up-to-date medical reports, as it's a very distressing thing to go through when you've already had all your scars opened up for the original diagnosis. It's one thing to build up a relationship between patient and practitioner ... it takes time and effort on both sides. To force someone to go through it all again with a stranger is emotional rape.
If patients are not transferring with up-to-date reports as a matter of course then this is something that the NHS needs to pick up as a National issue ASAP. Transfer of care for long term ill patients depends on clear communication between the different services caring for the patient.
Guidelines for Interviewing Veterans
Two group members from the Criminal Justice System and myself were meeting and working on a document. The purpose of the meeting was to identify ways to facilitate a mental health review appointment for patients who are ex-service personnel with a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This included pre-meeting preparation, the review and subsequent follow up appointments. The issue has had no further work done on it for the last two months or so. I've asked for this to be an agenda item for the next meeting.
Organisational Updates are back on the agenda in a formal way and will be minuted but will take place after the main meeting. The Chair said that he didn't have the time to sit in that part of the meeting because of other commitments.
What came out of this part of the meeting was that we need a lobbying group that is independent of the NVFP, so that we can push certain issues forward.
I felt that we could use Nottingham City Council to produce our own leaflets and have them fund our printing costs. To that end I've asked all the groups that would like a presence on the poster to email me a logo, email address, weblink and telephone number together with a brief sentence about what they offer. I'll design it and take it to the next meeting as an agenda item if I have their requested data.
There was some discussion around why Veteran's don't access services for themselves as soon as they get a hint of something being wrong within themselves.
The reasons we came up with were as follows:
Some are in denial of their own problems
Veteran's are used to being the dependable ones at the sharp end and coping
People don't always understand a Veteran's language (service slang)
Veterans can swear a lot when talking about issues that they find painful, this can be a barrier for some GPs
They're programmed to keep going until they drop
They have little trust of a society that sent them to war and then discarded them when they came 'home'
They don't fit into 'civvy street', people don't understand their their ways
Service life is black and white - civvy street is shades of grey
Being made to feel vulnerable and then mistreated
Many GPs are ignorant of mental health issues
Some GP's attitudes are appalling towards people with PTSD or other mental health issues
There is a lot of stigma attached to people with mental health problems and it ruins their difficult lives
We discussed how we could make GPs aware. A couple of the groups have been trying to make contact with GP's Surgery Managers over the years and have never received replies to their communications. I feel that we should mail shot them carefully in a recorded way and build up an image of their attitudes based on their responses or lack of them. I would go so far as having a recommendation list based on their responses as to whether they are capable of looking after the needs of people with mental health problems.
The NVFP have a link in already and can start the ball rolling on raising more awareness with GPs. I also feel that we should be targeting Patient Liaison Groups as well as GPs and practice managers. we may achieve better results.
As well as continuing to report on the progress of the group, I'll be writing specific blog posts on the other organisations that form the NVFP, as well as any key documents, in the hope that you or a Veteran may find the information useful ... or that you have a template for beginning your own group in your area.
Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu