In recent years there have been changes to medical screening prior to travel and health-related support for families once overseas. Below is a summary of the developments and what it means for Service personnel and any accompanying family members.

Healthcare: Considerations before you go

Has anyone in your family got significant health needs? Well-established locations will be able to support the majority of health needs. However, smaller units or isolated detachments may not be able to. This should not deter you from applying, but you may wish to seek additional advice when considering volunteering for overseas service.

It is essential that you are open and honest about medical conditions when completing your screening forms and talking to staff from the Defence Global Practice (DGP), previously known as the Global Medical Supportability Cell. Family members arriving overseas with medical needs that cannot be supported are likely to be returned to the UK.

Medical Screening explained

Why is medical screening required for family members accompanying an overseas assignment?

In some countries, there will be limitations to the range of healthcare services available. Therefore, a screening process is in place for accompanying family members, prior to issue of assignment orders, so any specific needs can be safely met at the intended destination.

RAF SPOUSE

“It took a bit of time to complete a form for each member of the family, but from there the process was very easy. The day after we sent the forms back I received a call from a nurse at the GMSC, just to clarify a couple of things, and our clearance came through shortly afterwards. It was really reassuring to know that my family’s health needs had been properly considered before our move abroad.”

How does the new medical screening process work?

The new process came into effect from 1st April 2019. Instead of the individual services, a specialist military organisation takes the lead on medical screening. You continue to request self-assessment screening forms from the Families Section of Movement Support Services (MSS). Medical history forms must now be completed by the family member. These forms should be requested as soon as an overseas application is accepted and at least three months before intended travel wherever possible.

The DGP is staffed by military medical specialists, with representatives from all three Services, who can draw upon more detailed knowledge of individual assignment locations.

Once the forms have been reviewed you may be contacted to clarify responses and check facts, or for permission to contact medical specialists involved in your care, where more information is required to assess supportability. Once all information has been assessed a supportability recommendation will be made.

Possible outcomes are:

  • Medically supportable
  • Medically supportable, additional self-certification required closer to the time of travel
  • Not medically supportable, along with reasons for this recommendation

The recommendation is communicated to both the Serving person and Chain of Command. There is now a right of appeal for families who are considered not medically supportable. Whilst the DGP provides a recommendation on supportability, the single Service is responsible for the final decision.

Families who are considered to be medically supportable will be directed to seek advice on any vaccinations required prior to travel.

Note: If anything changes you may be asked to go through the screening process again. For example, upon posting from one overseas location to another, an extension in a post beyond 36 months, following the birth of a child, or as result of a significant illness. If your needs change, it is the responsibility of the Serving person to inform the DGP. This will ensure any changes in treatment or management of these needs can be considered.

Healthcare provision overseas

If you are posted to larger units, such as RAF Akrotiri, you will have access to medical and dental care at the station Medical Centre. However, the healthcare available for families will vary significantly by location on other overseas postings. Healthcare provision for family members could be through host nation GPs, dentists and hospitals (state-run or private), military medical facilities, or sometimes a mixture of these. Specific information about the medical plan for your assignment can be obtained from your Career Manager.

Make sure that you understand how to access healthcare whilst overseas. Read any information provided and ask questions if you aren’t sure about anything; it is good to know which doctors, dentists and hospitals you can use before you really need them. We also recommend you familiarise yourself with any systems for paying and claiming back medical fees, if applicable.

Dental care overseas

It is important that you are aware of arrangements for dental provision overseas. Before you arrange any Dental appointments, please read all the information in the Strategic Command Dental Care Overseas Guide and refer to 2022DIN01-040 (which is available via MODNet). There is no Service provision for dental care by Defence Primary Healthcare (DPHC) (Dental) in ISODET locations. Personnel are authorised to seek dental treatment from local civilian dental practitioners. Dental treatment is accessed via One HMG Healthline (HEALIX) Healix Hub and provided by local Host Nation dental practitioners.

The following are other useful links for Dental care overseas:

Important: Travel Insurance

You will be covered for medical treatment whilst at the assignment location, but if you intend to take holidays or travel you will need to make sure that you have appropriate travel insurance in place. Non-military visitors who come to stay with you will not be covered under the MOD provision and should also take out adequate insurance before travelling.

Who can be contacted from overseas with questions or concerns?

The DGP offer a clinical reach-back service – providing clinical advice and support on healthcare queries for entitled RAF personnel and their families overseas. Reach-back queries should be directed to the Group mailbox which is reviewed by qualified Defence Medical Service (DMS) medical personnel; UKStratCom-DMS-DPHC-DGP-Grp@mod.gov.uk

The service is provided during UK office hours only and does not replace in-country emergency or urgent support. Defence personnel overseas will continue to use DMS facilities in the firm base or FCO Healthline (Healix) as applicable.

Defence Global Practice and Central European Practice

If you are posted overseas and outside a firm base with a DPHC Medical Centre, you will have the option to register with the Defence Global Practice (DGP), for rest of World, or Central European Practice (CEP), for mainland Europe ISODETS. The DGP and CEP will allow your medical record to be kept up to date with any medical interaction whilst overseas, facilitate face-to-face healthcare delivery at a Defence Primary Healthcare (DPHC) Practice if required, and facilitate access to UK NHS health screening. It is also intended that your medical pre-screening forms will be recorded with the DGP and CEP so that medical personnel can direct you to the most appropriate medical care.

Can UK health services still be used on visits to the UK?

Whilst in the UK you may need to seek medical attention, or might want to make sure that you stay up to date with vaccinations or medical screening not offered at your assignment location. DGP and CEP can clarify the processes to be followed to access healthcare facilities back in the UK, both for outpatient and inpatient treatment. This may include access to a DPHC Family Practice at a location of your convenience. In an emergency you can continue to access NHS hospitals, afterwards you should inform the DGP/CEP to ensure that you have access to follow-up care.