One of the NHS trusts providing care in Andover has signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant as part steps to improve support for veterans.

Southern Health’s chair, Lynne Hunt, signed the pledge as part of steps to become a ‘Veteran Aware’ trust, alongside others such as Hampshire Hospitals, which runs Andover War Memorial Hospital.

Sara Courtney, Southern Health’s deputy director of nursing, and a Royal Navy veteran, said that “it is key” the trust improves veterans care.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge that can be taken by organisations to help serving personnel, veterans and their families to ensure they have access to the support they need, such as housing provision and wellbeing. Earlier this month, Test Valley Borough Council completed a review of its pledge under the covenant.

For Southern Health, signing the pledge means the trust aims to ensure the best possible care for veterans and their families. It also will support the employment of veterans and their partners, as well as building a network of armed forces ambassadors.

Sara said: “A veteran is anyone who has served in the armed forces for at least one day. There are about 2.6 million ex-service people living in the UK and about 3 million dependent family members.

“As veterans make up between 3 per cent and 9 per cent of the population, it is important that we consider their specific health needs. Many leave the military with complex medical and psychological health issues – such as musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory problems and for some, mental health issues such as PTSD, depression and alcohol misuse.

“As the biggest provider of mental health services in Hampshire and with a large number of military bases across the county, it is key that we improve veterans’ care wherever possible – for the benefit of our patients and all our staff with military connections.”

The adoption of the armed forces covenant follows the trust having launched a High intensity Service in November along with other NHS bodies, enabling former service personnel or their loved ones to call NHS 111 if they need urgent mental health care and access rapid support.