A veteran is someone who has served in the armed forces for at least one day. There are around 2.6 million veterans in the UK.
When servicemen and women leave the armed forces, their healthcare is the responsibility of the NHS.
It is highly important for continuing healthcare that you register with an NHS GP and remember to tell them you’ve served. Telling the GP practice about your veteran status will trigger the transfer of your full medical documentation from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to your GP and enable you to benefit from veteran-specific services, such as mental health.
You shouldn’t be disadvantaged from accessing appropriate health services, so it’s important that you notify your current GP that you are moving, particularly if you’re on a waiting list for medical treatment, so that this information can be transferred across.
All veterans are entitled to priority access to NHS care (including hospital, primary or community care) for conditions associated to their time within the armed forces (service-related). However this is always subject to clinical need and does not entitle you to jump the queue ahead of someone with a higher clinical need.
If the NHS service you are dealing with is unaware of priority treatment, you are actively encouraged to tell them about it and ensure you have told them that you have served. Failing that, you can enlist local health care commissioners, your local authority community covenant lead, or one of the national service organisations, such as the Royal British Legion, to support you.
For more information on the duty of care owed to service personnel, read the Armed Forces Covenant.
Improving care for severely injured veterans
NHS England hosts the Veterans Trauma Network, which aims to provide specialist care for patients with service-related traumatic injuries.
The network comprises of 10 major trauma centres across England:
- London (3 centres)
The network acts as a regional hub for veteran care, linking with NHS veterans mental health services, national centres of expertise and key service charities to provide a complete package of care.
Patients referred to the service have a personalised treatment plan developed and provided by a specialist team of military and civilian experts in trauma. As part of this, the needs of families and carers are also considered.
If you are supporting a veteran or veterans who you feel may benefit from referral to this service, BLESMA is the umbrella charity for the veterans trauma network and can be contacted by:
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- phone: 0208 548 7080
Referrals to the network can also be made via a GP, Blind Veterans UK and Style for Soldiers.