A GP surgery has become the first in Bury to attain an accreditation which prioritises the health, wellbeing and treatment of veterans.

Whittaker Lane Medical Centre in Prestwich has been named as an 'Armed Forces veteran friendly' GP practice.

It is also the ninth practice across Greater Manchester to achieve the accreditation, which is being rolled out across the North West, and will mean that the Beaufort Street surgery has a dedicated clinician with specialist knowledge of military-related health conditions and veteran-specific health services.

Debbie Fletcher, who has worked as a practice nurse at Whittaker Lane for more than 15 years, undertook training and joined the Veteran Friendly scheme to secure the accreditation for the surgery.

Queen's Nurse Ms Fletcher, from Radcliffe, said: "I think it's an important service to offer veterans because quite often the culture of the Armed Forces can sometimes make seeking help for mental health support appear difficult to serving and ex-serving members.

"By having services which they can be referred to directly, that are provided by specialists who have expert understanding specific to the Armed Forces, they may seek help sooner, thus having better long-term outcomes."

The accreditation has been given by The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), who launched the 'Veteran Friendly' programme in June this year, and is working alongside NHS England and NHS Improvement.

To become veteran friendly, practices are required to meet specified criteria and provide evidence that they are supportive of veterans' healthcare.

Ms Fletcher carried out research about how to achieve the title, carried out online and e-learning training, and made the application.

She said: "I briefly served as a reserve in the RAF several years ago and I also have a nephew who is a sergeant, currently serving in the Fusiliers.

"With my vested interest in veterans and the fact that I like to be ahead of the game, we are the first surgery within Bury Clinical Commissioning Group to be accredited.

"Having myself as dedicated lead means that we can show our accreditation and hope that veterans tap into our links to services sooner than they might have originally done.

"As a Bury lass who regularly attends the Fusiliers meetings, I hope that people will see me as a friendly face. I hope this will lessen the challenges that they are facing, and they they will have confidence in my abilities and confidential, knowledgeable approach."