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 - Sam Cook

A day in the life of Sam Cook, Veteran Liaison Support Officer Regional Lead.

Sam joined Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) as a Veterans Liaison Support Officer (VLSO) in August 2020. Sam is home based and is one of four VLSOs who form part of the new OP Courage South East Veterans Mental Health High Intensity Service, which covers, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire

What is the Veterans Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS)?

The Veterans’ Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS) is a pathfinder programme commissioned by NHS England to build on two existing nationally commissioned specialist veteran services: The Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) and the Complex Trauma Service (CTS). The HIS adopts a provider collaborative model of working, where different providers work closely across a region to offer a consistent model of care. The pathfinder pilots across England will be reviewed to build the case for Veteran Mental Health services to be commissioned widely from April 2023.

The South East HIS is a partnership between lead provider Solent NHS Trust and is delivered in collaboration with material subcontractors including Walking With The Wounded. The model has been co-produced with people with lived experience – veterans, their families and those still serving, and the diverse military community has been fully considered and engaged.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am an Armed Forces Veteran myself, having served 24 years in the Royal Navy joining up in 1976. During my career, apart from serving at sea, I was also lucky enough to be posted aboard to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, two years in Hong Kong at HMS Tamar and served onboard HMS Fearless during the Falklands War.

Since leaving the Royal Navy in 2000, I have undertaken various roles spending the last 15 years predominantly working within the third sector for several charities.

What does an average day look like for you?

I don’t think there is such a thing within the HIS Team! No two days are the same and the saying “Jack of all Trades” would be very applicable. Being involved in the HIS Pathfinder means that every day is a learning day, normally starting with a “Morning Huddle”. The Huddle allows all members of the SE HIS Team to get together to discuss their daily appointments and highlight new referrals into the service. A normal day for me will be client-focused, face to face meetings to provide the ongoing support they may need to meet their social needs and liaising with other relevant services. When not involved with clients and out in the community, the other side of my role is supporting the other VLSOs in meeting their clients’ needs and liaising with Regional Veterans Mental Health Leads across several NHS Trusts to discuss the future ongoing support they may need.

What is the best bit about your job?

The most rewarding aspects of the role and that of a VLSO is being able to engage with a veteran when their life is so chaotic and work with them to ensure they are receiving the mental health treatment they need while addressing their social needs to enable them to reconnect with their families and their community. Developing a trusting relationship is fundamental to supporting a veteran through that journey, which can be overwhelming for an individual to get to this point, so being part of those positive steps is my daily inspiration to help my next client and continue to improve the service.

What is the biggest challenge?

Time and resources, you want the best for your clients and to make that instant impact to help them out but unfortunately, that rarely happens because of the ongoing demand for services in the South East. But what I have learnt in the past 17 months is that a clear line of communication, keeping the client regularly updated and continuing to build their trust is so valuable to keeping them engaged with the service.

What would you like to achieve in this role in the future?

I would like to be involved in helping to shape the future service so when the High Intensity Service is hopefully recommissioned in 2023 as part of Op COURAGE, it meets the needs of veterans at a chaotic time in their life. I want future service users to have the confidence that within HIS they will be treated as an individual; sharing their story with someone who understands.