Veterans First are First

Veterans First community mental health team from Colchester won the national Care of Veterans Award on 21 May at the Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards in Cardiff.

Veterans First is provided by North Essex Partnership, the local mental health service, working with Combat Stress, Mind, Rethink, DCMH at the Colchester Garrison and Enable East.

The project came out of the partnerships formed through the North Essex Veterans Mental Health Network (NEVMHN) and the hard work of some very dedicated people.


After the ceremony, Diane Palmer, Co-founder and Deputy Chair of Network and Area Team Manager of Veterans First, said, ‘We were pleased to be shortlisted in our first year but utterly amazed to have won. It shows what can be achieved when a group of passionate and dedicated professionals take a united approach to support Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans. We are honoured to have been awarded such a prestigious national award.


“I’m going to sound like an Oscar winner as I need to thank all our partners who made the whole programme possible: thank you Enable East, Mind, and Rethink.’


The NEVMHN was created to build collaborative working between the MoD, NHS and Combat Stress. Veterans First is a specialist mental health team providing assessment and care co-ordination, support groups and a carers group. The network has expanded to include many other expert agencies like the Royal British Legion.


Dr Walter Busuttil, Director of Medical Services at Combat Stress, said: ‘The NEVMHN is leading the way in showing that multi-agency collaborations can create smooth clinical pathways for ex-Service men and women to access the treatment that they need.’


Lt Col (Retd) Srinivasan, Consultant Psychiatrist at DCMH Colchester, said: ‘An idea leads to a passion which then helps create a team who all care about our veterans, the North Essex Veterans Mental Health Network(NEVMHN), who all work closely to improve the mental well being of our Veterans, trying to give back to them a fraction of what they have done for us. This has been recognised, nationally and we are delighted and humbled to receive the 2013 award for joint working with the NHS and Combat Stress.’

The Awards are hosted in turn by the Ministry of Defence, Welsh Government, Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.  They promote and publicly recognise the efforts of health professionals from the public, private and voluntary sectors across the UK in providing care to service personnel, veterans and their families.