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Much more needs to be done to ensure the health and well-being of the region’s former servicemen and women.
That was the conclusion of a major review of the health and support services available to the ex-service community in the region.
The investigation was the first of its kind and involved input from each of the North East’s 12 local authorities.
The region’s collective Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee met for the first time to establish whether the needs of returning servicemen and women – and those of their families – are met by the services currently available.
The inquiry explored three specific strands and involved in-depth consultation with a wide range of military and civilian experts, organisations and statutory bodies.
It is estimated that veterans – and their dependents – account for a sixth of the North East’s population, or around 400,000 people, with more than half suffering from a long-term illness or disability.
Middlesbrough Council provided officer support to the initiative, and Councillor Eddie Dryden, Chairman of Middlesbrough’s Health Scrutiny Panel, chaired the Physical Health workstream.
In its final report published this week, the NE Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee makes 53 separate recommendations, and reaches a number of conclusions as to how services can be improved.
Middlesbrough Council’s Physical Health workstream identified that military personnel who need artificial limbs are given the very best available.
However when they leave the military and come under the care of the NHS, the same level of replacements are not always available. NHS facilities may also lack the expertise in high end prosthetics which is evident in the military.
The workstream reached the recommendation that former service personnel in need of artificial limbs should be provided with replacements (as they age) which allow them to live the same life and have the same mobility as those issued by the military.
Councllor Dryden said: “Middlesbrough is a forces friendly town, and both we and the region as a whole have a proud military tradition.
“Last year’s Freedom Parade in the town showed the huge local support for our armed forces as they put their lives at risk day in, day out in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.
“This review was the first of its kind to look at this hugely important area and our recommendations are the first step towards a better future for our servicemen and women and their families.”