Case Study

Salisbury NHS Trust's gold-standard commitment

Find out how this trust has improved its commitment to its Armed Forces community.

19 June 2023


In July 2022, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust (SFT) successfully achieved the government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold award, acknowledging the value and commitment it places on supporting those who have served in the military or continue to serve, including reservists, veterans, and the wider military community.

In March 2023, SFT launched its Armed Forces network to provide a forum for the Armed Forces (AF) community to come together to share ideas and best practice. It delivers educational awareness sessions with guest speakers and signposting to support organisations. The network welcomes Armed Forces reservists, veterans and those with a general interest in the Armed Forces and those with a family member who once served or is still serving.

Key benefits and outcomes

  • Reservists receive additional ten days paid leave for annual continuous training (ACT), plus additional five days unpaid leave if required. 

  • Introduction of Armed Forces reserves policy.  

  • Appointment of an Armed Forces advocate. 

  • Armed Forces champion training, with links into the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA). 

  • Collaborative working partnership with Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS), with direct permanent support assigned to the hospital, alongside Help for Heroes, BLESMA: The Limbless Veterans and other local Armed Forces charities. 

What the organisation faced

In July 2022, SFT was awarded the Ministry of Denfence (MoD) Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold accreditation, acknowledging the exceptional support it provides to the Armed Forces community and defence. The trust needed to maintain its gold standard and remain an exemplar employer within the Armed Forces community.

To do this the trust recognised that there needed to be involvement from a broader network of representatives including members from the NHS, MoD, Armed Forces Reservists and other interested Armed Forces charities. The aim being to actively support the trust by promoting best practice in all aspects relating to the Armed Forces.

What the organisation did

The trust established an Armed Forces senior leadership team, including both staff and external stakeholders. This team included an Armed Forces clinical lead, Armed Forces advocate and network chair, with valuable representation from Defence Medical Welfare Service (DWMS) and Military charities, all to deliver the value of the Armed Forces Covenant. 

The aim was to co-ordinate the delivery of Armed Forces champion training, establish links into the VCHA, proactively work towards the aim of achieving the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold award, and be recognised as a Veteran Aware organisation for its staff and patients. The team was able to appoint an Armed Forces network chair and co-chair to co-ordinate the planning, management and review of the new Armed Forces Network, its aims, and objectives. 

Partnerships were developed with The Wessex Region ERS Gold Award Association (GAA) Group and the Wessex Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association to help build relationships with local military reserve units, the veteran community, and relevant Armed Forces charities.   

In collaboration with the Armed Forces Network members, a corporate review of HR policies looked to ensure the right support was available for reservists to carry out their military training, and when called to mobilise. The trust opted to introduce an ‘ERS gold-standard’ reserves policy, including ten days paid leave for annual training plus an additional five days unpaid leave if required.  

Results and benefits

  • An additional ten days paid leave for reserves to cover annual training, plus additional five days unpaid leave if required. Making sure that the reserves have access to their military training has benefits for both parties. The reserves feel valued and invested in, and their training brings valuable and transferable skills back into the workplace.

  • Reserves policy detailing the organisation’s commitment to supporting Armed Forces reservists ensures reservists feel valued and do not face disadvantages in terms of available leave. 

  • SFT is a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant and is recognised as a Veteran Aware organisation, helping to reduce inequalities and improve care and support to the Armed Forces' community. 

  • Utilising the direct links established with military charities, veterans’ services and the local Armed Forces and veterans breakfast club, the trust has raised awareness across the organisation to support serving military staff and veteran patients.  

  • The trust provides Armed Forces champion training and education to staff empowering them to support and mentor staff and advocate for patients. 

  • The appointment of an Armed Forces advocate and an Armed Forces network chair brings together the veterans, reservists and families with connections to the military community. The network's aim is to raise awareness of the barriers and disadvantages that may arise due to military service, It also offers a support environment to improve staff experience, employee retention,  forum to provide feedback and positively influence our staff culture.

  • Since 2008, the clinical lead for Armed Forces, has run a war injury clinic catering solely for veterans and military personnel, attending from across the UK. The clinic and the clinical lead are part of the Veterans Trauma Network, and has support from Help for Heroes and BLESMA. 

Going forward

As part of its next steps, the trust launched the Armed Forces Network (AFN), supported by guest speakers from St John University, York, on the topic of the military human. The purpose of the meeting was to guide the trusts staff with an understanding of military culture, how to support reservists and the transitional journey upon leaving the Armed Forces. The trust invited its Armed Forces Reserves colleague from NHS Employers to the meeting, to enable the network members to engage with wider stakeholders.    

To further commit to the education of its staff, the AFN has invited the NHS England associate medical director for Armed Forces and Veterans Health and the Independent Veterans Advisor, Cabinet Office, to present in person at the next AFN meeting. 

The trust will continue to deliver its Armed Forces champion, Trauma Informed Veteran Awareness Training (TIVAT) and increase the Armed Forces Network membership, in support of its Armed Forces staff community and patients.  

The trust recognises the need to continue to invest in its commitment to the Armed Forces community, ensuring it adheres to the Armed Forces Covenant, with a focus on wider stakeholder collaboration, to build the support available to colleagues via the Armed Forces Network and to its patients across the Armed Forces communities. 

Takeaway tips

  • In collaboration with your Armed Forced Network create or adapt a current HR policy to support to Armed Forces community in your workforce.

  • Link with your local medical Armed Forces Reserves unit.

  • Establish an Armed Forces strategic planning team with an aim for ERS Gold award from the outset, to ensure you achieve your aims.

  • Promote your Armed Forces staff network widely, involving as many Armed Forces staff as possible. 

  • Many ex-Forces personnel miss the camaraderie of military life. The support that veterans, reservists and family members can offer each other in an Armed Forces Network should not be undervalued. 

  • Establish relationships with a local veterans’ breakfast club and arrange staff network drop-in sessions, especially around Armed Forces Week and Armistice, which can be a difficult time for many. 

  • Engage with your local veteran charities and the DMWS to widen the Armed Forces Network locally and boost what it can offer to staff and patients. 

An icon of a calendar.

November 2023 update  

The impact of the network 

The Armed Forces network has been established for just over six months and is the fastest growing network in the trust. It now has over 80 members.

Guest speakers at network meetings have included Nick Wood presenting ‘The Military Human’, Dr Jonathan Leach OBE, NHS England Associate Medical Director for Armed Forces and Veterans Health and will soon welcome David Richmond CBE, Independent Veterans Advisor. All have provided valuable training and knowledge to edify and support the development of our Armed Forces staff community, and towards improving the care of our patients. 

The trusts’ Chief People Officer has received feedback from a new member of staff who is a military dependant, saying how supported they felt having an Armed Forces network who knew how to support their personal needs and it was something they had never experienced before from an organisation. 


The network supported Armed Forces & Reserves Day 2023, attracting a high number of staff and patients to the flag raising event. There was support from the local Armed Forces Veteran Breakfast Club along with our local Reservist unit and an Artcare department stand displaying the history of the military hospital in pictures and WW2 surgical equipment. 

In November the network held a Remembrance service, again inviting our local Armed Forces Veteran Breakfast Club. The Act of Remembrance attracted the largest attendance in 15 years and included staff, patients and a huge number of Veterans and Reservists, all donning their military medals with pride. Inviting outside organisations to these events enhanced both the network’s and the relationship with the local community, raising awareness of the support all parties involved can offer to the whole Armed Forces community, which in turn boosts the moral of all. 

Looking ahead 

The Armed Forces network is now supporting the trust to develop its Armed Forces HR Reserves policy and to establish important connections with the Step into Health programme and other NHS trusts looking to create their own Armed Forces networks.

The network is also helping contribute towards promoting the external reputation the trust has in support of our Armed Forces community and to improve the level of care we provide to our patients through our Armed Forces network staff.

Contact details 

For more information about the work in this case study, contact Neil Lewis, Armed Forces Advocate & Armed Forces Network Chair, and Helen Rynne, Armed Forces Network Co-Chair at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, via