Employment Consultnant Andrew Pickersgill with the mental health team at Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Trust.JPGA report published Monday 31 October praises a ground-breaking programme in the North West of England that has given GPs and mental health teams the opportunity to prescribe career coaching for ex-Forces patients.

The specialist service, delivered by employment consultants embedded within Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP), was developed by The Poppy Factory charity, in partnership with CWP. It is based at the Stein Centre in Wirral and aims to support veterans with physical and mental health conditions to find work.

As a Veteran Aware Trust, the programme forms a vital part of CWP’s commitment to help improve the lives of everyone in our communities. Employment is vital to people’s feeling of social inclusion and the work with The Poppy Factory is an example of this principle in action.

For The Poppy Factory, the project forms part of their programme to support veterans to overcome barriers to employment that can affect some them after they leave the Armed Forces and transition into civilian life.

CWP chief executive, Tim Welch, said: “The experience of NHS workers is very different to that of those who have served in the Armed Forces. To have an employment consultant from The Poppy Factory embedded within one of our adult mental health teams in Wirral has created a deeper understanding of the veteran experience and has been an invaluable opportunity to share learning more widely across CWP.

“Not only do we have a better understanding of the challenges veterans face when seeking employment, colleagues also have greater consideration for the difficulties our veterans face overall.”

According to the independent report by the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, this proved vital to the success of the project. The Poppy Factory’s employment consultant was involved in clinical meetings about patients (with patient consent), providing key information and becoming trusted advisors and colleagues.

Veterans reported a boost to their overall mental wellbeing. One commented: “Just having someone to talk to - someone who understood my situation and didn't judge - helped a lot.”

Deirdre Mills, Chief Executive of The Poppy Factory, said: “We are very pleased with the effect this pilot has had in helping us reach more of the ex-Forces community. There has been positive feedback from the clinicians, who recognise the clear benefits and impact of our partnership. Best of all, there has been very positive feedback from the veterans themselves.

Tim continued: “In the first year of the pilot we were able to support over 40 veterans in Wirral to find work, which has been hugely gratifying to see, especially as the pilot demonstrated ‘a substantial improvement in individuals wellbeing’ including a ‘boost to their overall mental wellbeing as a result of their time spent with The Poppy Factory, with many veterans feeling more confident in themselves after attending the service’.

“From the feedback received, it is clear this has been a highly effective partnership with the veterans involved feeling like they were supported and in a safe space. They could develop trusting relationships built on a foundation of specialist knowledge both within mental health and the veteran experience, which has naturally led to better communication and joined-up working to the benefit of veterans.

“We are immensely proud of our involvement in the project, and look forward to building on this work for the future.”