Policy issue

Defence Medical Services (DMS) provide health care for Service personnel, and in some circumstances for their families, throughout their time in service. Responsibility for primary healthcare usually transfers from the Defence Medical Services to the NHS when Service personnel leave the Armed Forces. Each devolved nation is responsible for providing health care for ex-Service personnel and their families in the country they are living.

In some instances, where a health condition is due to Service, veteran-specific support is available which may involve a joint care pathway where some elements of treatment are provided by the Defence Medical Service and some by the NHS. In addition, some health services are provided by charities which have their own eligibility criteria.

Added to this, there can be issues with the transfer of health records when a veteran and their family transfer across services or geographical location. This means that providing health services is complex, and those available to veterans and their families can be variable, which creates the risk of unmet need as a result of difficulties in accessing services.

Policy position

We believe that all ex-Service personnel and their families should be able to access good quality health services when and where they need them. We fully support the Armed Forces Covenant which states that no ex-Service person or their spouse or partner should be disadvantaged as a result of service, and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases.

We support The Strategy for our Veterans and its aim of ensuring that ‘All Veterans enjoy a state of positive physical and mental health and wellbeing, enabling them to contribute to wider aspects of society’. Our view is that there is a clear need for health care services that are designed to best meet the sometimes unique health and care needs of ex-Service personnel and their families. In some circumstances this will mean that the provision of a specialist service is the best approach, and in others, mainstream NHS and other public sector services will be the most appropriate pathway for meeting need. The key issue is that there must be sufficient expertise, awareness and understanding of the ex-Forces community and their physical and mental health needs, and that these are taken into account in any health care provision wherever it is delivered.


Click here to download FiMT’s Health Policy Statement.