A “GROUND-breaking” Dorset project working with armed forces personnel and veterans was recognised as the health service celebrated its 70th anniversary.

The Dorset Armed Forces Community Health and Wellbeing Project was awarded the excellence in mental health care award.

Based at Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, the initiative helps people in the armed forces community access health and social care services across Dorset.

It can also help service personnel access housing, and provide support with welfare and employment issues.

The project was nominated by Dorset MPs Tobias Ellwood and Michael Tomlinson.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the union Unison, said: “This is a ground-breaking project that looks at all aspects of the health and social care needs of armed forces personnel and their families.”

Members of the team strive to reduce health inequalities for local veterans and families of both retired and serving personnel.

Working with local partners and veterans themselves, they have co-produced and implemented a veterans’ care pathway, and in their first year they assessed 55 people through their Wellbeing Gateway, and demand continues to be high.

Outcomes include improved access to physical and mental health services and support in preparing for employment.

Service and clinical lead Andy Gritt said: “We are extremely humbled to have received this award, and it is testament to the hard work and enthusiasm of the team.

“We are really proud to accept this honour on behalf of Dorset HealthCare and the armed forces community we serve.

“Research shows that for service personnel, the transition to civilian life can lead to a range of challenges including health issues, family problems, homelessness and unemployment.

“There’s also little understanding of service families’ mental health needs and no joined-up approach to support them, and we are actively looking to change this.”

As part of this year’s NHS 70th birthday celebrations, MPs were asked to find and nominate individuals and teams they thought had made the biggest improvements to health services in their constituencies, across ten categories.

Michael Tomlinson, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, said: “I was delighted to be able to nominate the Dorset Armed Forces Community Health and Wellbeing Team and even more pleased they won.

“They do a fantastic job, and I hope that this helps to highlight the importance of mental health, which is right at the top of the political agenda.”