Op RESTORE: Ministerial visit to St Mary’s Hospital
Earlier this week, we welcomed veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer and health secretary Steve Barclay to St Mary's Hospital to meet with the Op RESTORE team. The national service, which is hosted by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, supports veterans in England who have continuing, physical injuries and medical problems attributed to their time in the Armed Forces.
The ministers also met with a number of veterans who have benefitted from Op RESTORE who spoke of how multi-disciplinary teams who understand their military backgrounds have helped to restore their physical health and wellbeing.
What is Op RESTORE?
Op RESTORE is a service for anyone who has served at least one day in the UK Armed Forces and, as a result of their service, acquired a significant, lasting physical illness or injury. The service uses a network of both civilian and military consultants, along with welfare support from military charities, to support a veteran’s health using a holistic approach. By declaring themselves to their local GP, ex-forces personnel can access more specialised physical and mental health care support.
Op RESTORE was formerly known as the Veterans Trauma Network (VTN). It was launched by NHS England in 2016, with 740 referrals so far - but many more ex-service personnel could also benefit. It was recently renamed to Op RESTORE to help improve awareness of it amongst veterans and to sit as part of a suite of dedicated healthcare pathways run by NHS England, including Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service.
Veteran Mobility Fund
From the autumn, Op RESTORE will be able to support veterans to access the Veteran Mobility Fund, which will deliver high quality support to veterans with physical disabilities through grants to enable them to access mobility equipment that meets their needs and improves their quality of life.
Shehan Hettiaratchy, national clinical director of Op RESTORE, chair of the NHS England Armed Forces Healthcare Clinical Reference Group, and also major trauma director at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We work with military charities and closely link with Op COURAGE so every element of the veterans’ health needs are met. Veterans will be seen by clinicians within the NHS who have an understanding of the challenges of military life – many having served themselves.
“If you have continuing physical health injuries and related medical problems attributed to you time in the Armed Forces and think you need the help that Op RESTORE can give you, ask your GP to refer you and we’ll do the rest.”
Secretary of state for health and social care Steve Barclay said: "Veterans have given so much to this country and when they need support as a result of their dedicated service, it’s only right that the NHS is there for them.
"Op Restore is a brilliant programme that helps with veterans’ physical health and wellbeing. Their joint approach includes military clinicians, meaning they receive help from medical professionals with a deeper understanding of their individual needs.
"For most veterans, serving the nation is a hugely positive and beneficial experience. But for the minority who find their health impacted by their time in the Armed Forces, I want them to be able to come forward to receive both short and longer-term care tailored specifically to them, and I want them to know that services such as Op RESTORE are there to support them."
Minister for veterans’ affairs, Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer said: "The reason I joined this government was to improve access to veterans’ care, and I’m incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made over the last few years.
"We now have clear and dedicated pathways for mental and physical health, and are looking at how we can extend this support further to provide wraparound, community support.
"If you have been injured, mentally or physically, by your time in service, please contact your GP and identify yourself as a veteran so you can access the specialist treatment that’s right for you.”
Maurillia, Op RESTORE patient said: “The service has made me aware that I matter, that I have a voice - no matter how small or how soft. To speak to a consultant who understands my injuries and hear someone else rather than myself say the same things in a different way, no matter how long it has taken. The support to me along this journey from Op RESTORE has been brilliant.”
Further Armed Forces healthcare services provided by the NHS in England include Op NOVA: Supporting Veterans in the Justice System and, most recently Op COMMUNITY: Armed Forces Community Support.
Find out more about Op RESTORE on NHS England’s website.