This post was originally published on this site

@PAVOMH

Victoria Williams, Veterans’ Lead, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (left)
and Vanessa Bailey, Veterans’ Lead Therapist Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (right) 

This week’s guest post is from Victoria Williams, the Lead Veteran Therapist at Veterans’ NHS Wales service (VNHSW) based in Swansea’s health board – Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. The team also covers the Ystradgynlais area of South Powys.Veterans are defined by Public Health Wales as “anyone who has served for at least one day in HM Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve) or Merchant Navy Seafarers and Fishermen who served in a vessel at a time it was operated to facilitate military operation by HM Armed Forcesâ€�.

Veterans’ NHS Wales service is there to help ex-service personnel living with service related mental health problems. I caught up with Victoria to find out more about provision of this invaluable service in Powys. 

Tell us more about your role as a Lead Veterans’ Therapist and what drew you to the work

I’ve been working for Veterans’ NHS Wales since 2011 for the ABMU health board. Having worked in mental health for over 20 years I recognised that I wanted to work in a service that specialised in working with military veterans and this was an ideal opportunity.

What kind of support is available to veterans in Powys?

Powys enjoys the same level of service from Veterans’ NHS Wales as anywhere in Wales. You can download a map showing the 3 out-patient clinics, based in Welshpool, Neath and Bronllys.

Why might veterans require this service?

Veterans’ NHS Wales is a psychological therapy out-patient service offering therapy for veterans with service related mental health difficulties. This means that anyone who’s finding it difficult to cope after they have left the military, if they think their issues might be ‘service related’, are able to self refer to us. We will then offer an initial assessment of their needs and from there a management plan will be put in place.

Mark Birkill, Veterans’ Therapist in North Powys

How can Powys veterans access the service? Who can refer a veteran for the service?

VNHSW is the Welsh Government funded NHS mental health service offering therapy for issues related to military service. It’s important to note that ANYONE can refer into the service. We offer an open access policy meaning that people are able to self-refer via the website. We do find a lot of people think they have to go via the GP but this isn’t necessary.

Once referred an opt-in form is sent asking the veteran for extra details and proof of identity. When we have this information we aim to offer an assessment within 4 weeks. The assessment will look at all aspects of the current situation and look at how we can best support you.

The Powys Veterans’ service is delivered by neighbouring health boards. How does this work?

VNHSW is a ‘hub and spoke model’. This means we are one service centrally based in Cardiff with our ‘spokes’ throughout the other 6 health boards in Wales. Powys is covered by 3 health boards but because we are ‘one service’ it therefore has no impact on the service a veteran will receive. If there are any doubts as to where your clinic is based then individuals can contact us (see details on the map or

go to our website) and we can point the individual in the right direction. For example, if the veteran’s GP surgery is based in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board, then the veteran would be seen in our out-patient clinic in Neath.

A Veterans’ service is very specialist. What training do Veterans’ Therapists undertake?

All veterans’ therapists are trained psychotherapists with training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). Both therapies are what we call ‘evidenced based therapies’ for treatment of a variety of mental health difficulties. In addition we receive additional specialist training in military mental health difficulties.

Oxana Jones, Veterans’ Therapist in South Powys

Are there other agencies Powys veterans can contact for support with their mental health or other issues such as debt management or armed forces compensation?

Veterans’ NHS Wales has a network of agencies working throughout Wales offering support for many different issues. We currently have a peer mentor support worker who is able to help veterans link in with the most appropriate agency to help with their needs.

What has been the most challenging aspect of running the Veterans’ NHS Wales service?

One of the most challenging but rewarding aspects of the role is the increasing number of referrals we’ve received since we started 10 years ago. Initially this led to an increase in the time veterans were waiting to be seen for therapy. However, with the support of Welsh Government, which has recently increased our funding, this has meant that we’ve been able to extend the input of psychiatrists and administrators can give to the service. We’ve also been very lucky to receive additional funding from the charity Help for Heroes over the next 3 years and this has led to an increase in the number of therapists in the service leading to shorter waiting times.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done with the Veterans’ NHS Wales service so far

Being able to speak to someone who isn’t aware that there is help for the problems they are presenting with. Also helping someone to make sense of why they feel the way they do, and offering an evidenced based psychological therapy to reduce their symptoms and improve their general daily functioning, is pretty rewarding stuff.

When you are not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?

As a mother to two teenage boys and two dogs I tend to be very busy but you can often find me on the beach with my dogs or eating cake, I’m a big fan of cake.

Many thanks to Victoria for telling us about the Veterans’ NHS Wales service in Powys. If you would like to contact her, please email: victoria.williams4@wales.nhs.uk