HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Finding the Forgotten: Motivating Military Veterans to Register with a Primary Healthcare Practice

May, 2018
Article:

This paper explores how to motivate veterans to notify primary healthcare staff of their armed forces status, or register with a general practitioner, and to improve primary healthcare staff’s understanding of veterans’ health and social care issues.

Abstract

Introduction In the UK, primary healthcare practices choose from a series of Read codes to detail certain characteristics onto a patient’s medical documentation. One of these codes is for military veterans indicating a history relating to military service. However, veterans are poor at seeking help, with research indicating that this code is only applied in 7.9% of cases. Clinical staff have a clear role in motivating veterans to declare their ex-Forces status or register with a primary healthcare center. The aim of this study was to motivate veterans to notify primary healthcare staff of their armed forces status or register with a general practitioner, and to improve primary healthcare staff’s understanding of veterans’ health and social care issues. Materials and Methods Data were provided by four primary healthcare centers’ containing 40,470 patients in Lancashire, England during 2017. Pre- and post-patient medical record Read Code searches were conducted either side of a 6-wk intervention period centered on an advertising campaign. The data identified those veterans with the military specific Read code attached to their medical record and their age, gender, marital status and mental health disorders. Further information was gathered from interviews with eight members of staff, some of whom had completed an e-learning veteran healthcare academic module. The study was approved by the University of Chester’s Research Ethics Committee. Results The pre-intervention search indicated that 8.7% (N = 180) of veterans were registered and had the correct military specific code applied to their medical record. Post-intervention, this figure increased by nearly 200% to N = 537. Mental health disorders were present in 28% (N = 152) of cases, including 15% (N = 78) with depression. Interviews revealed the primary healthcare staff’s interpretation of the factors that motivated patients to declare their ex-Forces status and the key areas for development. Conclusion The primary healthcare staff took ownership and responsibility for this initiative. They were creative in introducing new ways of engaging with the local armed forces community. Many veterans’ and staff were unaware of veterans’ entitlement to priority medical services, or the wider provisions available to them. It is probable that veterans declaring their military status within primary healthcare, or registering with a general practitioner for the first time is likely to increase. Another review will be undertaken after 12 mo, which will provide a better indication of success. There remains however an ongoing need to reach out to those veterans who never access a primary healthcare practice. This paper adds to the limited international empirical evidence undertaken to explore help-seeking behavior in an armed forces community. The positive outcomes of increased awareness and staff commitment provide a template for improvement across the UK, and will potentially stimulate similar initiatives with international colleagues.

Full Reference

Finnegan. A., Jackson, R. and Simpson, R., 2018. Finding the Forgotten: Motivating Military Veterans to Register with a Primary Healthcare Practice. Military Medicine, 183(11-12), pp. e509-e517. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usy086.

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