NHS England is seeking to improve the health and wellbeing support provided to military families, and your views are helping to shape that plan. The NHS in England provides healthcare services for families of serving personnel – regulars and reservists – who have registered with an NHS GP practice. But not everyone in the NHS understands the specific health needs of Armed Forces families, and what they are entitled to under the Armed Forces Covenant. That can mean, in some cases, that such families have problems getting the right care and support, which can lead to further challenges and difficulties.
Armed Forces community support networks have been set up in some parts of the country, focussing on improving their experience of health services, and feedback from families with experience of such networks has been positive. But in many areas such links are more informal and not as well-developed, so one strand of the engagement exercise was to explore whether setting up more networks might help.
The engagement took place for two months from the end of September 2020, supported by a questionnaire and a series of online focus groups and one-to-one interviews. More than 160 organisations were contacted directly to encourage responses, and with the supporting media also playing its part, a total of 1,391 responses were received by the NHS. Armed Forces families contributed 424 responses, and more than 80 per cent of the respondents were aged between 26 and 65. Just under 20 per cent of the respondents were from, or had links to, the Royal Navy or Royal Marines.
Now the results have been analysed, the NHS is embarking on a programme of actions under the heading ‘you said, we will do…’
One general theme that emerged was that Armed Forces families believed they would benefit from more information and dedicated support to help them find and access NHS services, and that a person acting as a single point of contact outside the chain of command, rather than an array of documents and leaflets, would be more helpful. And one line of thought is that community support networks could fulfil the function of a single point of contact, as well as helping NHS organisations understand the military culture and lifestyle, as well as the implications of the Armed Forces Covenant.
Furthermore, reducing waiting times as a result of moving bases and more joined-up communication between NHS organisations and between the NHS and Defence Medical Services (DMS) would ensure that Armed Forces families do not repeatedly have to start the referral process every time they move.
Respondents also indicated that better understanding from NHS staff, particularly from GPs, would make accessing services easier.
These findings have been shared with decision makers to help shape what support could be put in place for Armed Forces families in the future – and although this engagement has been completed, the NHS will continue to seek the views and experiences of Armed Forces families to ensure that any future support put in place meets their needs. The findings will be considered by the NHS England and NHS Improvement Armed Forces Oversight Group (AFOG), who will look at what actions are needed to progress improvements in this area.
Agreed actions will be progressed in collaboration with the NHS England and NHS Improvement Armed Forces Patient and Public Voice Group, Armed Forces families/Armed Forces community, the Naval Families Federation and our two sister groups in the Army and RAF, the wider NHS, Department of Health and Social Care and Ministry of Defence.
*SURVEY CLOSED – we will keep you updated via our website and social media channels once the report has been published.*
*CLOSED* Please click here to see the findings.
The NHS has launched a questionnaire and series of virtual events to explore how it can improve health and wellbeing support for the Armed Forces community in England.
Whilst most Armed Forces families enjoy healthy lives, the unique circumstances of military life can cause pressures for some and affect an individual’s health and wellbeing. This is in addition to moving home every few years, which can make accessing the NHS difficult. The NHS want to help change this, so Armed Forces families are able to access NHS services easily in all parts of England. The NHS also want to ensure that they can get care and support from clinicians and people who understand their health and wellbeing needs.
Anyone can share their views, however, the NHS is particularly keen to hear from serving, reserve and veteran families, people who are serving in or who have served in the British Armed Forces (Regular and Reserves) and organisations working with or supporting the community. (Please see note at the bottom of this article)
In addition to the online questionnaire, the NHS are also keen to engage directly with Service families. Unfortunately, they are not able to go out and meet with people face to face at the moment, so we have arranged a series on online events for serving RN/RM families instead, which we will be jointly hosting with the NHS team. These will be small discussion groups* as we want everyone to have an opportunity to have their say and we have arranged events at different times to suit your needs.
If you can help us with this important piece of work, which will have an impact on the provision of Service families’ health and wellbeing in the future, please click on one of the links below to register.
*Please note that you can also remain anonymous during these online events, if you would prefer to.
The Armed Forces Families Engagement Programme is a new NHS England initiative. However, the team are keen to hear from any Armed Forces family member who may want to contribute, wherever they live at the moment, as we are sure that many will still have had experiences of using NHS England services at some stage. We understand that NHS England intend to share the final report and outcomes of this programme with the NHS in the devolved administration areas too, so that they are aware of any local issues or feedback that our Service families may raise over the coming weeks.
Researchers at Bath Spa University are conducting a new study to understand what helps or hinders teaching careers for spouses and partners of British Armed Forces personnel. Findings from the study will inform teacher training providers, like Bath Spa University, that want to recruit and support trainee teachers with a military-affiliated background.
Research at Bath Spa University has identified specific challenges faced by mature students with a military-affiliated background, including military wives (Macer & Chadderton, 2020). Recent news reports suggest an increasing number of people are now considering joining the teaching profession since the Covid-19 lockdown. However, little is known about the experiences of spouses and partners of British Armed Forces personnel who want to pursue or return to a career in teaching.
This study is supported by the three Families Federations and is being conducted via an online survey. To take part in the study, participants should be:
*CLOSED* Please click here to participate in the research survey. The survey will close on Friday 2nd October 2020.
If you would like to know more, please get in touch with Dr Mel Macer, School of Education, Bath Spa University at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sincere thanks to everyone who generously gave their time to respond to our childcare survey. The survey is now closed. We will keep you updated via our website and social media channels once the final report becomes available. We will take your thoughts and concerns to the government and the Chain of Command to inform change.
If you missed the survey deadline, please email us at email@example.com as we would still like to document your ‘lived experience’ about this and any other issues that concern you.
You may recall that the NFF conducted a Childcare survey back in 2016. Thank you for your excellent responses which we collated and used to advocate strongly for change to remove disadvantage in this area. The whole report can be downloaded here.
As a result of our advocacy, the MOD has now agreed to consider how Service families can be better supported with childcare. We now have an opportunity to directly inform any potential changes and decisions and wish the specific needs of Royal Navy and Royal Marines families to be represented.
By completing this survey, you will be informing us and helping us to build a clearer picture of the childcare issues that affect you.
This survey should take about 10 minutes to complete: surveymonkey.co.uk/r/nff-childcare
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity announced the release of a new survey report written by the FANDF committee. This powerful report shares the voices of this sometimes-overlooked Additional Needs and Disability community within the Armed Forces. This is the first time that this demographic has shared these insights and their experiences in an official capacity with the Ministry of Defence.
Under the MOD’s Defence and Inclusion (D&I) strategy, efforts are being made to shine a light into every corner of the Forces community. In order to better support these families, their opinions and personal experiences have been collated and their own on-the-ground-recommendations are being shared.
Key report findings:
Click here to read the report in full.
Researchers at King’s College London are carrying out a new study into maternal health and wellbeing in the Armed Forces community. Findings from the study will be used to help those providing care to spouses and partners of UK Armed Forces personnel, including NHS and Defence healthcare professionals, Armed Forces charities, community and welfare teams, and perinatal health organisations. It is hoped that this will lead to improvements in services for spouses and partners of Service personnel during and after pregnancy.
Pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby signifies a period of unprecedented change, excitement and hope for the future for most women. However, for some, it can be a particularly difficult time due to mental health issues, which may arise during or after pregnancy. The spouses and partners of Armed Forces personnel may be at increased risk of developing a mental health problem in the perinatal period (pregnancy and up to 12 months following birth) as they are exposed to unique factors associated with this unique lifestyle.
However, we know very little about what pregnancy and early motherhood is like for UK Armed Forces spouses and partners, with the majority of available evidence coming from the US.
The study is being supported by the three Families Federations and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The project is being conducted via an online survey.
To take part in the study, participants should be:
Please click this link to participate in the research.
Edit (24th January 2022): FAMCAS 2022 is now open until 9th May 2022. Your serving loved one may have received an email invitation for you to participate in the 2022 survey. Please encourage them to check to see if they have received an invitation so you can share your views.
You may have been asked by your serving partner to complete the Families Continuous Attitude Survey (FAMCAS). The survey asks questions about key welfare areas including family life, childcare, deployment, education, employment, healthcare, and housing. It provides spouses/civil partners with an opportunity to share their views on what life is like being with a member of the Armed Forces. In the previous years, the survey was sent to a random selection of Service families located both within the UK and overseas. However, FAMCAS is now open to all Service spouses/partners.
We would really encourage you to take part in the survey as the results from the survey are used to aid the development and monitoring of military personnel policies and welfare initiatives. They are also used to inform and monitor Defence personnel programmes (such as the Armed Forces People Programme) and aim to address all types of challenges faced by the families of service personnel. All replies will be treated in the strictest confidence and are completely anonymous. Your individual responses will only be seen by the civilian researchers conducting this survey and external data input contractors.
You may be thinking, “What about me? I am not the legal spouse of the serving person, but their service has a big impact on me/my children, and I should be invited to comment.” We agree. We are meeting with the researchers working for FAMCAS to encourage the development of a more inclusive and useful survey that more accurately reflects modern family life. We also know that dual serving couples find it difficult to complete the FAMCAS. We will update you with any progress made in this area. In the meantime, please do have a go at completing the survey. Feel free to get in touch with us with any additional feedback you may wish us to pass on.
Please click here to access the results from previous years.
Calling young people aged 11-18 with a parent in the Armed Forces
A study is being carried out at the University of Southampton to investigate how adolescents from Armed Forces families cope with stressful life events (both normal adolescent stressful events and events specific to Forces life). The results of this study could be used to provide recommendations for how best to support young people from Forces families during difficult times. We are particularly interested in encouraging effective practice in the use of Service Pupil Premium in schools, and there is currently a lack of evidence about what interventions are effective for young people and teenagers.
This online study is open to participants aged 11-18 who have a parent in the UK Armed Forces. Consent is needed from both the participants and their parent/guardian, which is given online. Participants are asked to complete some demographic questions and 3 questionnaires: one on stressful life experiences; one on resilience; and one on coping styles. The whole thing will take around 1 hour to complete. Participants will receive a £5 Amazon voucher to thank them for taking part in the study.
We would very much appreciate your support with this work, as without evidence it is very hard to encourage change. Thank you so much for sharing and participating!