VETERANS of the Armed Forces in Cheshire could hold the key to improving healthcare available to servicemen and women on their return.

As well as the possibility of returning from warzones with life-changing physical injuries, many of those enrolled in the Armed Forces also have mental health difficulties.

A new study led by the University of Chester is aiming to help the NHS provide the optimum health resources for the veteran population.

And organisers from the university’s Westminster Centre for Veterans’ Research are asking veterans registered at Elms Medical Centre, Heath Lane Medical Centre, Park Medical Centre, City Walls Medical Centre, Helsby and Elton Practice, or Lache Health Centre to sign up before February 28, 2021.

The University of Chester’s Westminster Centre for Veterans’ Research is carrying out a research initiative to determine the number of military veterans registered at 12 GP medical centres in Chester, Helsby and Warrington.

Dr Alan Finnegan, the university’s professor of nursing and military mental health and chairman of the Cheshire Armed Forces Covenant Partnership Committee, said: “A military veteran is anyone who has served at least one day in our Armed Forces, either as a regular or reserve.

“Veterans are estimated as being five per cent of the population, and we know that significant numbers still need to be correctly coded within primary healthcare.

“Veterans can have a greater likelihood of some illnesses than their civilian counterparts, such as hearing loss and limb and joint problems.

“Ex-Forces personnel can also experience specific mental health problems as a result of their military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and alcohol misuse.

“In order to provide the correct health resources to meet the needs of these people, it is important to have accurate data on the number of veterans.

“This importantly includes the more elderly members of our armed forces community who may be socially isolated or living in a care home or assisted living, many of whom may have completed national service.”

To sign up, veterans at the participating medical centres should inform their GPs about their intention to take part in the University of Chester study.