Health and Wellbeing Stakeholder Insights – Scottish Veterans Care Network

Dr Lucy Abraham is a consultant Clinical Psychologist and in 2020 she was appointed Clinical Lead for the Scottish Veterans Care Network (SVCN), a National Strategic Network which aims to deliver an integrated, person-centred care pathway across the health and social care system for Scotland’s veterans. Here, she shares the ethos behind SVCN’s approach.

I first began working with the veterans population in 2011, when I took up the position of Service Lead at Veterans First Point (V1P) in Lothian. The service, designed and staffed by an alliance of clinicians and veterans, provides a one-stop-shop for the ex-Forces community,.

V1P has since expanded to six locations across Scotland and I am immensely proud of the recognition it has received for high standards of care for veterans and for positive patient outcomes in mental health. At the heart of its success is a fantastic team of veteran peer support workers and deep-rooted partnership working.

So when I was appointed Clinical Lead of The Scottish Veterans Care Network (SVCN) in 2020, we positioned extensive collaboration and input from those with lived experience at the centre of the network’s ethos.

There are some excellent services available in Scotland, but no single organisation can meet all the needs of the veteran community alone. Joining forces with organisations spanning the health and veterans sectors is a win-win – our veterans can access a higher quality of care and the reach and effectiveness of valuable services are maximised.

One of the first priorities of the SVCN was to develop a Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan, published in December 2021. It was designed and developed in collaboration with a large range of stakeholders and, crucially, the contribution of over eighty veterans. Its aim is to ensure that all veterans in Scotland can lead a healthy, positive life and reach their full potential, with access to Veteran Specific Mental Health and Wellbeing Services regardless of where they live and their circumstances.

Veteran Peer Support Workers are key to delivery of the Action Plan. They provide an important bridge between the veteran and health and wellbeing professionals, enabling greater understanding of the military context. Veterans’ engagement with mental health and wellbeing services is poor compared to other sectors of the Scottish population.  The role of Peer Support Workers has been evidenced to be crucial in reducing stigma, building relationships and supporting veterans to seek and access further help if required.

In addition to implementing the Plan, the Network continues to work towards other priorities, such as educating the health care workforce to better support veterans, and collating data and intelligence to develop a more accurate picture of the healthcare geography and requirements of veterans in Scotland. None of this would be possible without the commitment of our stakeholders and veterans who shape our various working groups.

It is a privilege to work alongside so many passionate and dedicated individuals, and I look forward to their continued invaluable contribution as we drive forward the Network’s ultimate aim of delivering of an integrated, holistic, person-centred care pathway for veterans across Scotland’s health and social care system.