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University and GP practice join forces to help veterans

Dr Olaoluwa Olusanya, founder of Veterans Legal Link and Reader in Law at Aberystwyth University (left) and Michelle Hopewell, Nurse Practitioner at Ystwyth Medical Group

An Aberystwyth University project which provides free legal advice and signposting to UK military veterans and their families, has teamed up with a local GP practice to offer support.

Based in the University’s Department of Law & Criminology, the Veterans Legal Link project is working with Aberystwyth-based Ystwyth Medical Group as part of a Wales-wide initiative to provide veteran-friendly services to patients who formerly served in the UK military.

The pilot, which is the first of its kind in the UK, began earlier this month.  The initiative aims to ensure that veterans are aware of the support that is available to them as soon as they leave the forces.

Dr Olaoluwa Olusanya, founder of Veterans Legal Link and Reader in Law at Aberystwyth University, explains:

“Our recent study showed that the provision of tailored advice leads to a variety of positive health outcomes for veterans.  One of the first places ex-service personnel go after leaving the military is their doctor’s surgery, where they register as new patients. Working with our partners at Ystwyth we aim to provide an immediate link to our services.

“Addressing the wider determinants of veterans’ and their families’ health, through the provision of legal advice and support with issues such as income, employment and housing, ensures holistic service provision and should improve health and wellbeing outcomes for service users.”

Michelle Hopewell, a Nurse Practitioner who is herself a military veteran, is leading the pilot on behalf of Ystwyth Medical Group.  She said:

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Veterans Legal Link on this pilot project.  We know that of the 8,700 patients our practice serves, approximately 80 are military veterans.  This collaboration brings something new to veteran support by providing a holistic approach to supporting their non-clinical needs – for example, threats to employment, family issues or housing problems – which in turn may impact on their health and wellbeing.

“This pioneering collaboration is a step towards Ystwyth Medical Group’s goal of becoming accredited as a veteran-friendly practice through Health Education and Improvement Wales.”

If the pilot is a success, the Veterans Legal Link project team intends to work with Hywel Dda University Health Board to extend the service to GP surgeries across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire within the coming months.