Gold award for our commitment to armed forces communities

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has been recognised on a national scale for the support it gives to armed forces communities, awarded The Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) gold status.

Somerset has strong links with the armed forces, and as such, the trust has been working hard to ensure it provides the right support for its patients and colleagues who are serving, veterans, or military families.

The gold award represents the highest badge of honour, and identifies businesses and organisations that employ and support those who serve, veterans, and their families.

To qualify for the gold award, organisations must show that they provide 10 extra paid days leave for reservists, and have supportive HR policies in place for veterans, reserves, cadet force adult volunteers and spouses and partners of those serving in the armed forces.

They must also advocate the benefits of supporting those within the armed forces community, by encouraging others to sign the Armed Forces Covenant and engage in the Employer Recognition Scheme.

Yeovil District Hospital also received gold award status, and chief nurse for both trusts, Hayley Peters, shared how proud she was of this latest award: “Achieving The Defence ERS gold award is a huge achievement for our trusts, and for our joint Armed Forces and Veteran colleague network. We know that many of our NHS colleagues in Somerset have links to the armed forces – just within the colleague network, we have 39 veterans, 6 reservists, and 19 family members or spouses of serving personnel. I have a personal connection to the armed forces, with my son currently serving and my husband having served previously, and we know there will be many more colleagues across our trusts who also have their own personal links to the forces.

“Ensuring support is in place for these colleagues is really important, enabling them to honour their military commitments, and provide safe spaces for them to share their experiences. Our strong relationship with 243 (The Wessex) Field Hospital also enables us to promote reservist opportunities to colleagues and attend armed forces recruitment events, raising awareness of the transferable benefits of reservists and NHS careers to individuals and their employers.

“As well as supporting our colleagues, we are proud that both trusts have Veteran Aware status. This means that we have a number of initiatives in place to support former and current military personnel, and their families, when they access care through our services.”

Somerset Recovery College, hosted by Somerset FT, also runs an online masterclass titled “The Art of Resilience”. This free course, available to anyone in the UK, has been designed specifically to help guide armed forces personnel to recognise the challenges and reality of transitioning out of the military and into ‘civvy street’.

Justine Clayton is a defence medical welfare officer based at Somerset FT who has been in post since 2020. She helps armed forces personnel, and their families, to get additional support while receiving care at the trust.

“The support, promotion and dedication to the work that I do in supporting the veteran and military communities across the trust has been exemplary since I joined,” said Justine. “I have given CPD training to many of the teams across the trust and work closely with colleagues in giving the best support to those veterans in need”.

Since Justine started her role, the team has expanded to include two further officers, covering both Musgrove Park and Yeovil District Hospitals, and community and mental health services.