Updated on

NHS data shows that 5.12 million are now waiting for routine hospital treatment in England. That’s the highest figure since records began. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also facing long waits.

Recently our Head of Clinical & Medical Services, Carol Betteridge OBE, reflected on the strain faced by the NHS in a previous blog about NHS waiting times and what that means for our wounded, injured and sick veterans and their loved ones.

Now Veterans’ Clinical Advisor Julie Thain-Smith, who works within our Veterans Clinical Service,  shares her thoughts after this recent news.

Julie has been a Registered Nurse (Adult) for 39 years. She spent 19 years working in the NHS in Scotland and 19 years as a Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service Officer, plus another eight as a Reserve Officer before that, rising to the rank of Captain, which included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. She has been supporting veterans at Help for Heroes for three years.

Julie says:
“Many of the veterans we support across the UK have been waiting for referrals to specialist consultants and elective procedures since before the COVID-19 crisis, and continue to wait now. They feel as if their lives are ‘on hold’ as I’m sure many others do. Veterans are not unique in that sense and we remain concerned as to how the backlog for those waiting for hospital treatment will be managed and reduced across the UK.

“The expectation of timely access to treatment has to be carefully managed. We acknowledge there may be conflicts with what is promised in the Armed Forces Covenant, albeit respecting clinical priorities, for those whose injuries and conditions are as a result of their Service in the Armed Forces. Other coping and diversional strategies such as pain management services, sport and leisure activities, and even face to face appointments with GPs, physiotherapists and mental health support providers, have also been challenging to access during recent times. We hope access to these essential services will improve as COVID-19 restrictions allow.

“When we ask “what matters to you?”, veterans just want to get on and enjoy their lives, to seek and hold down employment, to be good partners, parents and friends to their loved ones and be valued members of society.

“To bridge that expectation and support gap, Help for Heroes has endeavoured to empower and sustain veterans holistically during the COVID-19 crisis through members from our Veterans Clinical Service, nurses and occupational therapists, using a coaching for health approach and providing sleep support, Case Managers providing welfare support, our Hidden Wounds service providing Mental Health support, accessing Recovery College modules, through our Fellowship groups and Grants team funding. We will continue to do this in partnership with other Third Sector organisations and statutory services including the NHS and will be guided by what matters to our Veterans.

“We are all in this crisis together across the UK. We know the pressure the NHS has and continues to be under and fully support our wonderful NHS colleagues. We stand by to continue to support them too in any way we can.”