Published 18 January 2018

Supporting veterans has always been a key plank of the work my brother and I have done through The Royal Foundation. The men and women of our armed forces who stand up to fight for our country – many of you here today - are truly remarkable.

The Duke of Cambridge

Firstly I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all of you for being here today and for attending today's reception. This is the first time we've gathered together to reflect upon the success of the Step into Health Programme so far.

Your dedication and your support up to this point have been instrumental in making this programme a reality – so, long may that continue.

Four years ago I asked The Royal Foundation to see what we could do to help former servicemen and women transition successfully from the Armed Forces back into civilian life.

These veterans are without doubt exceptional men and women who have loyally served their country.  They have done so often in hostile and challenging environments, demonstrating selfless sacrifice and bravery, and, in many cases, suffering serious injuries.

Yet despite this, when choosing to finish their career in the military, veterans often find the transition back to civilian life fraught with uncertainty and extremely stressful.

In many cases prospective employers struggle to translate the abundant skills and experience which veterans possess and consequently often fail to appreciate where veterans can then fit into within their organisations.

The Step Into Health initiative is designed to help address this challenge.

In many ways, the NHS has been the perfect partner in this endeavour. Many of the values that the NHS espouses are well understood and widely practiced within the Armed Forces: close teamwork, commitment, compassion, respect, dignity and professionalism.

Likewise the skills and experience that veterans can offer employers are highly sought after and valued within the NHS.  By that I mean, for example, an ability to operate under pressure, courage in the face of adversity, leadership and management together with – above all – a strong and unwavering sense of public duty.

When we began this project we weren't quite sure what its future would be.

But from the early trials in Norfolk, Step into Health quickly became fully fledged schemes with very impressive results. And today, I am incredibly proud to be standing here talking about the national rollout. From a small idea, we have been able to make a great impact on people's lives. With your work going forward, just imagine how many more service leavers and their families will benefit as you guide and support their move into civilian employment.

And importantly, we must recognise the immense benefit all these people will be bringing to the NHS. At a time when concerns over the health service are never far from the headlines, we should rightly celebrate an incredible cohort of new staff that will enter the NHS with their well-deserved reputation for hard work, dedication and service.

I wish to thank NHS employers and Walking with the Wounded, as well as the team at The Royal Foundation, for their great work so far. This initiative really is making a difference, helping service veterans reintegrate, not only back into civilian employment, but also back into wider society.

Supporting veterans has always been a key plank of the work my brother and I have done through The Royal Foundation. The men and women of our armed forces who stand up to fight for our country – many of you here today - are truly remarkable, and I'm very proud that the Foundation is able to support you on your future path.

As we look forward to the challenges we face, I would love to see Step into Health expand even further, heading into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

And as I come to close, I want to leave with a very specific message to servicemen and women, and their families; the NHS is home to incredible people who like you are committed to excellence, duty, and public service. The NHS is waiting with open arms to welcome you, so hospital trusts across the country can benefit from the skills, the character and experience that you possess.

Thank you all very much for taking the time to listen.