A project focused on improving the wellbeing of Scottish veterans through assistive technologies has received the green light following funding from the Office for Veterans Affairs. As part of the Veterans’ Health Innovation Fund, Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS) will partner with NHS Lanarkshire and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) to bring a comprehensive welfare support system to vulnerable veterans in Lanarkshire. Working in collaboration with Technology Enabled Care (TEC) the project will focus on improved quality of life through the application of technology.

The introduction of new digital technologies within healthcare has revolutionised the way in which patients can interact with the NHS. With the advent of these technologies, health and care systems have begun to shift away from crisis intervention and towards prevention, early intervention, enablement, and supported self-management. By using digital technologies, the NHS can more effectively identify health risks and intervene early, providing patients with the knowledge and tools to better manage their own health. The Veterans’ Health Innovation Fund works to demonstrate the potential benefits of assistive technologies in tackling health issues that are unique to the veteran community.

NHS Lanarkshire has embarked on an exciting programme of utilising assistive technology across their area. This new partnership with DMWS will develop a programme to include hard-to-reach veterans within Lanarkshire. Lanarkshire has a number of geographically disparate veterans, many of whom struggle to access services due to issues including, lack of public transport, mobility issues or indeed their military service. DMWS will be able to provide them with the support and assistance they need to remain independent and connected to their communities. Some veterans suffer from health anxiety problems that prevent them from making and keeping appointments; this can be a significant barrier to their access to health care. DMWS will be able to provide these veterans with emotional support to help overcome their health anxieties and to access the services they need. Our team will be dedicated to providing compassionate and understanding support to help them feel safe and secure, exploring and utilising the growing technologies now available.

DMWS will help to identify veterans who may benefit from these assistive technologies and support them in its use, giving them a better ability to self-manage their care, and ultimately reduce inequalities in access to healthcare and save crucial NHS resources. The UWS team, led by Professor Murray Leith, will evaluate DMWS and NHS Lanarkshire’s innovative approach in utilising assistive technologies in the community to better support the health care and wellbeing of veterans with complex needs.

From DMWS’ long-term involvement with veterans at University Wishaw Hospital, significant datasheets have been developed on the issues impacting veterans in Lanarkshire. These datasheets have enabled DMWS to gain a unique insight into the issues faced by veterans in the local area and to develop targeted support services to address them. The issues include social isolation, mental health issues, difficulties obtaining hospital appointments, barriers to independent living, and financial difficulties. In many cases, access to technologies, such as remote medical appointments, care alarms, and digital monitoring devices, among others, may alleviate these problems.  

Craig Cunningham, Armed Forces and Veterans’ Champion for NHS Lanarkshire, commented, “I am delighted that DMWS has been successful in their application to access the veterans’ health innovation fund. This provides us with the opportunity to expand the range of services we are already able to offer to veterans in Lanarkshire and, in particular, to now offer them access to new technologies that will support them to manage their own health and social care when appropriate. These technologies will also support wider linkages for veterans across other community resources and services.

We are confident that by expanding the range of technologies, this will positively impact on the well-being of our veteran community in Lanarkshire, and we are looking forward to evaluating the benefits which accrue such that we can shape our future service planning.”

Under the collaboration DMWS will help to identify veterans who may benefit from assistive technologies. Through platforms such as Connect Me for remote health monitoring, and Near Me video consultations, DMWS will support veterans to use this technology to give them a better ability to self-manage their care, ultimately reducing inequalities in access to healthcare and saving crucial NHS resources. This combined approach to healthcare will see dedicated in-person welfare support and assistive technologies come together, creating an innovative approach to the way veteran health and wellbeing is managed.

In anticipation of the fund’s official launch in April 2023, DMWS is appealing to anyone with connections to Lanarkshire veterans who may benefit from the fund to get in touch. DMWS can be contacted on 0800 999 3697 or referrals@dmws.org.uk.

Notes to Editors:

About Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS)

Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS) is an independent charity providing medical welfare to those who have, and continue to, operate on the frontline. We place trained professional welfare officers in locations throughout the UK and Cyprus to deliver much-needed additional support for those who are on the clinical pathway. DMWS is committed to providing the highest level of welfare support to those in need, promoting their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Whether it is a new or pre-existing issue, our service is for anyone undergoing treatment for a health-related issue. By providing support in a range of settings, our staff are committed to promoting and preserving the health and wellbeing of those who have dedicated their lives to serving our communities. In addition, they are committed to enabling them to reach their full potential. This can speed up discharge from hospital, help patients recover more quickly, and reduce the likelihood of readmission or the need for onward referral.

DMWS has a long and proud history of supporting the military in times of need, offering expert help and advice to those affected by health-related issues. Through its comprehensive services and outstanding dedication, DMWS has become an integral part of the armed forces community, offering invaluable support to the armed forces community at their critical time of need. 

More can be found out on our website at https://dmws.org.uk        

Published: 22nd February, 2023
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