Last year I published a paper entitled Veterans’ Health & Wellbeing in Scotland – Are We Getting it Right? This set the scene on veterans’ health matters and offered my first impressions on the main issues that strike to the heart of whether Scotland is providing the best possible treatment and care for its ex-Service community.
Since then my team and I have looked in significant detail at the topics raised in that initial report and others, setting ourselves the task of finding answers to the four fundamental questions we posed at the very start of this study, namely:
- are health outcomes of our veterans population as good as they can be?
- do veterans face any disadvantages when accessing health and social care provision?
- does our health system properly fulfil our obligation to veterans with the most severe and enduring illnesses and injuries acquired as a result of their military service?
- are the needs of our veterans population properly understood and considered by those who work in health and social care?
Our assessment of where things currently stand and what the future might hold can be found throughout this report, alongside findings and recommendations aimed at the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and their partners. My ambition is two-fold: firstly, to see the mainstream and specialist provision for veterans protected and enhanced, especially for those with the most severe and life-changing conditions; and, secondly, to ensure veterans’ healthcare is a properly planned and embedded feature of the new health and social care landscape in Scotland.
When embarking on this project I quickly recognised that there is much we can be proud of in terms of the support provided to our veterans by statutory services and the many charities working in this field. However, I was also aware of concerns within the community – reinforced by several health professionals and officials – that veterans’ health and wellbeing is no longer attracting the same levels of attention, innovation or ambition as had been seen previously. There appears to be less enthusiasm for new ideas, some hesitation in seizing fully those opportunities offered by recent transformations in healthcare, and a degree of stagnation within a sector which has typically enjoyed a well-earned reputation for the quality and accessibility of the care provided.
My hope in writing this report is to re-focus and re-energise Scotland’s approach to looking after its ex-Service men and women and to faithfully represent the views of as many of them as possible. Most importantly, I want to offer both an ambitious and realistic vision of health and social care for Scotland’s veterans. This should be one that the entire nation can support, champion and ultimately be proud of.
Scottish Veterans Commissioner