You are a veteran if you have actively served in the armed forces for at least one day.
Reservists who are not currently mobilised are also given the status of veteran until they return to actively serving.
All veterans, family members and carers can access a range of specialist healthcare and support created to provide treatment and care for many different problems.
Support for health problems not caused by service
If you have a new or existing health problem that is not caused by your time in the armed forces, you can use regular NHS services to get treatment.
It is important to register with a GP surgery once you have left the armed forces and to tell them you have served. A GP can help refer you to NHS or dedicated veteran specialist services.
Waiting lists and priority treatment
If you have a health problem not caused by your time in the armed forces, you may go on to a waiting list before you can receive full treatment from the NHS. This is the usual process for NHS treatment.
If you have a health problem caused by your time in the armed forces, you will usually go on a waiting list before you receive care. However, you may be able to receive NHS care quicker than normal through priority treatment for veterans.
Priority treatment is not guaranteed. Receiving priority treatment depends on your situation and the nature of the treatment required. This includes:
- if other people have a higher clinical need than you
- the urgency of your treatment
- the type of treatment you need
Check with a GP if you can receive priority treatment for the NHS service care you need.
Help when transitioning from armed forces healthcare
When you leave the armed forces, it is important to complete a number of steps to make sure you can receive healthcare through the NHS and specialist veteran services.
- registering with a GP surgery
- making sure your GP surgery has a copy of your military summary medical records
- telling your GP surgery that you are a veteran so this can be flagged on your NHS medical notes
Veteran friendly GP surgeries and trusts
Some GP surgeries and NHS trusts have staff trained to be aware of health problems that veterans might face.
These are referred to as “veteran friendly” or “veteran aware”.
These are designed to support you with your healthcare in many ways, including:
- having medical staff with military healthcare backgrounds
- having staff trained to treat health problems that commonly affect veterans
- have knowledge of specialist NHS and MoD services designed specifically for member of the armed forces
Support for physical health problems caused by service
There are many dedicated Ministry of Defence (MoD) and NHS services dedicated to treating and supporting veterans who have physical health problems caused by their time in the armed forces.
Veterans Trauma Network
The Veterans Trauma Network (VTN) is the main provider of specialist care and treatment to veterans who were injured during their time in the armed forces.
They support veterans of all ages with injuries of all degrees of severity.
They work closely with the Defence Medical Services (DMS), specialist NHS services and key charities to provide a range of services.
If the VTN agree to support you after referral, you will receive personalised treatment in a local NHS health centre by military and civilian clinicians who understand and specialise in the type of injuries you have.
The VTN can also support families and carers of injured veterans through helping you access appropriate support services.
Accessing the Veterans Trauma Network
You can only be referred to the VTN by a GP or by your medical centre if you are medically discharged. The GP must know you served in the armed forces to refer you.
You can be referred if your injury is physical and was caused by serving in the armed forces. If you have a new injury you think was caused by your time in the armed forces, you can also ask for a referral from a GP if they agree.
It does not matter how long it has been since your discharge, or how severe your injury is. You can still be referred even if you were not medical discharged.
A GP can refer you to the VTN by emailing email@example.com.
Veterans Welfare Service
The Veterans Welfare Service provides one-to-one advice and support to veterans, their families and carers.
It is run by the MoD and Veterans UK.
Support for disabled veterans
There are many different NHS, MoD and charity services that are dedicated to providing support and treatment to veterans with disabilities.
Disablement Service Centres
If you lost a limb during your service, Disablement Service Centres (DSCs) can offer you specialist prosthetic and rehabilitation support.
You can be referred to a DSC during your regular medical treatment if the service will benefit you.
Ask a GP if you want more information about DSCs.
Veteran’s Prosthetic Panel
If you need to apply for funding for a high-quality prosthetic limb, Disablement Service Centres can apply to the Veteran’s Prosthetic Panel (VPP) on your behalf.
You cannot apply for funding by yourself.
For the application to be considered, you must have either:
- lost a limb during military service
- lost a limb due to an injury caused in service
Blesma offer advice and support to veterans who lost a limb, the use of a limb, an eye or the use of sight during military service.
They work closely with NHS and MoD services for disabled veterans and can refer you to useful services. They also offer advice on financial benefits and support as well as helping you find appropriate community groups.
Blind Veterans UK
Veterans with sight loss can get help and support from Blind Veterans UK.
They offer a range of support, including rehabilitation services, practical advice and emotional support.
Financial healthcare support
There are many organisations who offer financial advice and support to veterans and their families or carers.
Veterans UK is an organisation run by the MoD. They offer advice and support on many issues, including financial benefits, housing and welfare.
There are many ways to contact Veterans UK, including a telephone helpline.
Integrated Personal Commissioning for Veterans (IPC4V)
IPC4V is an NHS and MoD service that helps make personalised care plans for veterans and their families or carers. This includes financial and budgeting support, as well as referring to key services, community groups and charities.
This service is not accessible to every service leaver. It is only available for service leavers with specific health and well-being needs. You cannot self-refer.
If you are eligible, you can only access this service through a referral from medical staff while you are on the Defence Recovery Pathway, including if you are at a Personnel Recovery Centre or a Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre.
ABF The Soldier’s Charity
The Soldier’s Charity offer financial support and funding to Army veterans and their families or carers.
Mental health support
Veterans and their families and carers can access dedicated mental health support services run by the MoD, the NHS and mental health charities. These include:
- Op COURAGE: the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service
- the Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme
- the Combat Stress mental health helpline
- urgent NHS mental health support
There are many charities dedicated to providing support, advice and aid for veterans and their families.
Many of these charities cover a range of topics, including disability support, rehabilitation, self-help programmes, accessing services and further financial support.
Sexual assault support
If you have been sexually assaulted while in the armed forces or as a veteran, there are NHS services and charities who can give you help and advice.
Find help after rape and sexual assault:
Support for families of veterans
There is a range of support and advice available for families of armed forced veterans and non-mobilised reservists.
This includes services and charities dedicated to helping you with any healthcare and welfare concerns.
- Healthcare for armed forces veterans
- Armed Forces Covenant
- If you are a wounded veteran or loved one and would like information or advice, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 01980 844388
Out of Hours Support
- Samaritans - freephone 116 123 (24/7) to access confidential emotional support for feelings of distress, despair, or suicide thoughts
- Togetherall– a safe online service providing access to millions with anxiety, depression, and other common mental health issues. Free for serving personnel, veterans, family members and carers
- Shout - a crisis text support service for people in the military community who are struggling and need immediate support to get through a crisis Text CONTACT to 85258
- NHS 111 - to access medical help fast but when it’s not a 999 emergency, telephone 111 (available 24 hours).
- Veterans UK - to seek information on claiming AFCS, Armed Forces Independence Payment, Medical Discharges and Pension Forecast Requests