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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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How Julie helps members of the Armed Forces in our hospitals

09/11/2018
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We're profiling Julie Ponton, a welfare officer for the St John and Red Cross Defence Medical Welfare Service charity (DMWS).

She works across our hospitals to provide independent and confidential medical welfare service to armed forces staff whenever they're receiving medical treatment.

Julie, tell us a bit about how you help armed forces staff who are being cared for in our hospitals.

"Members of the Armed Forces often face additional challenges. As a welfare officer, I understand the issues surrounding deployment, family separation and bereavement, isolation, mental health needs, combat-related injuries and medical disorders attributable to service.

"Hospital treatment or healthcare intervention can sometimes be really stressful, and stir up all kinds of feelings, all of which can really slow down someone's recovery.

"The help I offer our Armed Forces Community is the highest quality of service through face-to-face specialist support. This can be during hospital treatment, supporting patients at follow-on outpatient appointments or during community and home-based treatment. I've helped some patients organise their homes with aid and adaptations and I've assisted others apply for benefits they had no idea they were entitled to.

"All of the charity's welfare officers are full-time professionals from a variety of backgrounds including military, healthcare, social work and counselling. They're all trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and have a Level 3 Diploma in Welfare.

"It eases some of the pressure on hospital staff, too - if they're treating people who are serving in the military, or are veterans, then they know I'm there to provide that support. Medical staff are incredibly busy people, and knowing that someone with an understanding of the military can step in and provide tailored support is one less thing to worry about."

What's your military background?

I joined the Royal Navy when I was 17, and completed 22 years of service. I originally joined as a Pay Clerk and transferred to the Welfare Branch, which was the navy equivalent to Army Welfare Service. I left in 2012, and started working for Defence Medical Welfare Service straight away."

How long have you been helping the Trust?

I started in April 2018, and I'm here until at least March 2021. It's a wonderful Trust to work for and they've really embraced the concept of my role. The Trust has a great partnership with us, and their commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant is second to none.

What's the most rewarding part of the job?

"I don't want to sound cheesy, but there are so many. Every day is different - it's fair to say it's very far from an in-tray and a predictable pattern. I love meeting with patients and their families, and it's a real privilege to feel like I'm helping and making a difference. No-one particularly likes being in hospital, so if I can make their stay a little better, then that's good enough for me.

"It's a unique role in the sense that my day is very much based around the patient, their families, and their needs. I support the patient from admission through to discharge and afterwards if appropriate or needed - what really helps with this is that DMWS covers the UK and beyond, so if someone is transferred to another Trust our welfare support can continue uninterrupted. Also, if patients are familiar with our service, it can really help to know there'll be a friendly face on their arrival at another hospital."

How can people find out more about the charity?

"You can visit their website at www.dmws.org.uk or drop me an email at jponton@dmws.org.uk"

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