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Latest News 29 December 2016

Veterans Trauma Network

Wounded military veterans are in line for better medical treatment for their complex injuries thanks to a campaign featuring Blesma.

The Veterans Trauma Network (VTN) was officially given the go ahead this week to improve continuing treatment for discharged military personnel.

It provides access to a regional network of ten NHS Veteran Trauma Centres where NHS and military experts in trauma can provide targeted clinical plans to a cohort of patients that has struggled within the existing system.

Veterans often have complex injuries suffered in blasts from IEDs which require multiple operations and expert care after they have left the service but many reported fragmented delivery and delays.

The VTN, championed by NHS consultant and Army reservist Shehan Hettiaratchy at St. Mary’s Hospital, London, will help hundreds of veterans such as Blesma Member and former Royal Engineer Matt Weston, who has had 50 operations since he was injured in a bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2009.

“We do have the right experts within the NHS but the challenge has been getting the veteran from where they are sitting with their GP to those right experts,” said Mr Hettiaratchy, who is the VTN’s clinical lead.

“The idea is to make that connection and make it as simple as possible.”

Mr Hettiaratchy added: “These guys and girls who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have been put back together by doctors, nurses and therapists who may be military but when they are not serving they are working in the NHS and can provide continuing care.

“It is important to connect them people who can treat them appropriately, give them the right answers straight away and not send them bouncing around the system.

“It is better all round for them and the NHS. Establishing this has been a team effort and I’ve had great support from Blesma and its members.”

Veterans can access the centres via a GP referral to ensure that they receive the appropriate care. The service is based on clinical need and does not result in any extra costs for the NHS or give a veteran priority treatment.

“Many veterans experience a disconnect with their treatment once they are discharged from military service,” said Brian Chenier, Prosthetics Support Officer, for Blesma, the limbless veterans charity. “The civilian pathway is not used to dealing with them and therefore they can suffer delays, appointments with the wrong experts and misunderstandings over the medical needs that come from complex injuries that require multiple operations and this can lead to sub-standard treatment, pain and suffering.

“Some of them have received blast injuries which need specialist care that cannot always be provided by GPs so it is important to get them to the right specialist quickly."

“We have been campaigning for this sort of scheme because it improves their treatment, sparing them pain and inconvenience while, in the long run, saving the NHS money. A GP can simply refer the veteran to one of the VTN centres and they will get the appropriate expert treatment. One of the beauties of the VTN system is that it does not cost the taxpayer any money and will, in fact, save NHS funds by getting the right treatment to the veteran at the right time.”

The ten centres are at Plymouth, Oxford, London (3 centres) Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Middlesborough and Liverpool.

Barry Le Grys, Chief Executive of Blesma, added: “This is an important progression for veterans who need continuing care after discharge. Some have found it very difficult to access timely and appropriate care so the VTN will help smooth their treatment at no additional cost to the NHS."

“Shehan Hettiaratchy deserves a big thank you for making this happen and we are delighted that NHS England has given it the green light.”

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