Health care for RAF family members is delivered via the NHS. However, some RAF bases allow family members to register with the DMS Medical Centre on base.

Can I access a DMS Medical Centre?

To find out if you can register with the DMS Medical Centre on your Unit visit the RAF’s station index. Click on the name of the relevant station, followed by the ‘Facilities’ tab. Under the Health and Welfare section, there will be information about the Medical Centre and who is eligible to use it.

If you are still unsure, contact the Medical Centre or HIVE on base who will be able to advise and direct you as appropriate.

NHS Care

The majority of Armed Forces families will access and receive their healthcare through the NHS in exactly the same way as the rest of the population. This is also the case for non-mobilised reservists and military veterans.

The NHS in England is responsible for providing services such as dentists and opticians and shares responsibility for GPs with Integrated Care Systems (ICSs).

NHS England established 42 statutory integrated care boards (ICB’s) on 1 July 2022 in line with its duty in the Health and Care Act 2022.

This was as part of the Act’s provisions for creating integrated care systems (ICSs) to replace the Clinical Commissioning Groups. Within each ICS there is an ICB, responsible for meeting the health needs of the population, managing the NHS budget and arranging for the provision of health services in the defined area.

Mobility and health care

ICS’s are partnerships of organisations and professionals, that come together to provide a wide range of services including mental health services, urgent and emergency care, elective hospital services, and community care.  The provision of treatment in each ICS may differ around England and some types of treatment may not be offered in different ICS locations.

Note: It is recommended that if you are accessing specialist treatment/care to confirm in advance of a new posting that the service you require is available in the new ICS. You can find details of your local ICS/ICB on the NHS website Find your local ICB (www.nhs.uk)

The NHS website is a good way to find out what NHS services are available before moving to a new area in England. On this website, you will find information about how to ‘Find a GP’ and ‘Find a dentist’.  When you register with an NHS GP or find a dental practice, you should tell the practice that you are a member of a serving Armed Forces family, so this can be added to your patient notes. This helps to ensure that you are treated in line with the Armed Forces Covenant.

There are a large number of additional avenues of support depending on you or your family’s requirements.  Find out who to contact.

What does the Armed Forces Covenant mean in the context of health care for RAF families?

The Armed Forces Covenant is a ‘promise from the nation that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly’. The Armed Forces Covenant has the following fundamental commitments:

  • “The Armed Forces community should enjoy the same standard of, and access to healthcare as that received by any other UK citizen in the area they live.”
  • Family members should ‘retain their place on any NHS waiting list, if moved around the UK due to the Service person being posted.’ Please see Page 6 of this document for more information. The Armed Forces Covenant clearly states that if you are on a waiting list for a procedure at location A and you move between ICB’s to location B, you should not be disadvantaged and placed at the bottom of the waiting list.  You should join the waiting list at location B at a similar position as you were in location A.

When registering with an NHS GP, it is important to tell the practice that you are a member of a serving Armed Forces family, so this can be added to your patient notes.  This helps to ensure that you are treated in line with the tenets of the Armed Forces Covenant.

Is you GP Practice forces-friendly?

It is always worth checking whether your GP practice is Veteran Accredited; there are now over 2400 Veteran Accredited GP practices in the UK and the number grows daily.

This forces friendly programme supports practices to deliver the best possible care and treatment for patients who have served in the armed forces and their families.  If your practice is not accredited you can offer them the information on how to join here: Veterans’ healthcare toolkit: Veteran friendly GP practice accreditation (rcgp.org.uk)

Health care outside of England

Health care in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Health is a devolved responsibility therefore the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland assembly have responsibility for provision of health services in their regions. For more information on the NHS in these areas please follow the links below.

Overseas health care

Health care for families who are posted overseas may be provided by the Ministry of Defence, local military unit or other local arrangements may exist. Families will be informed before they move of the specific arrangements that exist for health care in the country to which they are posted. If families have any special health care needs they should discuss these prior to accepting an overseas posting to ensure their needs can be met in the overseas location. See also: Overseas – Medical care

Defence Medical Welfare Service

The Defence Medical Welfare Service is a charity providing practical and emotional support to the Armed Forces and their families in the UK, overseas and whilst on operations.  The service provides support from a DMWS Welfare Officer in hospital, in the care of a hospital or in a rehabilitation or recovery centre. To find out more go to their website.

How we help

We have a dedicated Health and Additional Needs Policy Advisor who attends meetings of the NHS England Armed Forces Patient and Public Voice (AF PPV) group on behalf of the RAF community.

The purpose of AF PPV is to:

  • Provide the NHS in England with an understanding of the challenges that the Armed Forces community face as a result of their service.
  • Use networks to disseminate new NHS England initiatives that can help all members of the Armed Forces community understand what is available to improve understanding and access.
  • Identify practices that will improve health and social care pathways for the Armed Forces community when navigating the NHS England system.

AF PPV aims to act as a central point for Armed Forces health service users, communities, families and carers to ensure their voice is heard.  One of the ways in which this happens is through members of the Armed Forces community sharing their personal experiences of care within the NHS in England.  AF PPV are keen to hear about your NHS England experiences so that changes to policy and practice can be made to ensure that the Armed Forces community is not disadvantaged due to military service.

Tell us your experience

By telling us about your health care experiences, so we can make your voice heard.