DOCTORS across Sunderland have signed up to support the city’s servicemen returning from war.
Wearside’s Armed Forces Covenant was signed on behalf of the GPs and their practices at Sunderland Civic Centre yesterday.
There are more than 26,000 forces veterans in the city.
Many face a struggle to adjust to life back on civvy street, with some turning to alcohol and drugs to cope.
Now, medics from across the city are joining the Covenant in a bid to provide better support and help to those adjusting to a new life.
Councillor Harry Trueman, armed forces’ champion for the council, said: “The service personnel can all access the help and support that is available through the council, the health service and with voluntary groups across our city.
“We’re now welcoming GPs with the covenant.”
David Gallagher, chief officer of NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, CCG, said: “I am delighted to have signed this covenant on behalf of NHS Sunderland CCG and our member practices.
“This is part of our commitment to increasing understanding of the issues that service personnel and veterans face to help us commission health services.
“This follows our work in recent months with Sunderland Armed Forces Network (SAFN) to raise awareness and provide training for GP surgery staff.”
Graham Hall, a former soldier and chairman of the SAFN, said GPs are in a unique position to help.
He said: “The work that has been carried out with the group prior to it becoming operational in April this year has been unique and extremely positive for the armed forces community.
“We have ensured that veterans issues are at the forefront.”
“The NHS and Combat Stress run VWALS (Veterans Wellbeing and Liaison Service) which has been established to ensure that veterans get the specialised help that they may need.
“In addition there is ongoing training for all NHS staff, particularly community-based nurses and doctors who are likely to encounter the unique challenges that the armed forces community can present.”
The Sunderland Armed Forces Covenant was first announced in May 2012 when the city’s adopted warship HMS Ocean berthed at the Port of Sunderland, and its captain was at the initial signing with other forces representatives Sunderland City Council, the NHS and Sunderland AFC.