Introducing our new welfare officer for military patients and their families

Serving military personnel, veterans, and their families in Somerset are now able to get additional help during their time in our care and after they return home from hospital.

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has entered into an innovative partnership with the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS), a charity which plays a vital role in helping members of the armed forces community to safely return home when they no longer have a medical need to be in hospital.

Justine Clayton has been appointed to the role of welfare officer and is able to draw on her first-hand experience of living with a veteran. In her previous role Justine managed the Compass Wellbeing Centre, an inclusive welfare centre based in Taunton, and she has also worked in the Red Cross’ home from hospital service at Musgrove Park.

“When I saw this role I immediately knew it was for me,” said Justine. “I live with a veteran so I have a first-hand insight into the needs of military personnel and their families.

“There are 50,000 serving military personnel or veterans currently living in Somerset and I’m really passionate about making sure they get the right level of support they need, and that they know how to get it. We know that people within the military are very reluctant to ask for help and they equally don’t realise what support is out there for them.

“I’m really pleased that many of these families and individuals can now benefit from my support, whether that’s simply being there to listen and understand or helping to sort out practical things to help them settle back at home.

“The main aim is to give them everything they need to live a healthy and independent life, meaning they are less likely to need ongoing or future healthcare services. If a veteran, serving member of the armed forces or military dependent is currently an inpatient in any of our services, I can visit them to assess what their ongoing needs are likely to be once they leave our services.

“I’ve found this can be anything from giving mental health and emotional support to helping someone whose TV has broken, which isn’t something the NHS can normally help with, but I can signpost them to various military charities who can take this on.

“Military personnel and veterans are more likely to open up if they are speaking to someone with more of an insight into what they are going through. There’s no limit to the amount of time I can spend with them and my support can range from a call once a month or even weekly visits if needed.

“I can be an advocate for them and accompany them at medical appointments as they may struggle to fully grasp what they are being told and may not ask questions. I can also make sure they get home safely after their appointment or stay in hospital and that they have someone to talk to, particularly if they’ve been given bad news. And if they have social care needs I am help them to access funding available through military organisations and charities, which they would unlikely have thought of before.”