Support when leaving the armed forces

Find information and support to help you move from military healthcare to civilian healthcare after leaving the armed forces.


Contents


Leaving the armed forces can be a daunting process to undertake. Understanding what options you have and what actions you can take will help make your transition from military healthcare to civilian healthcare as smooth as possible.

What happens to my healthcare when I leave the armed forces?

After your discharge date, you will move from dedicated serving personnel healthcare to civilian and veteran healthcare.

Most of your treatment will come through NHS services, which includes dedicated healthcare services designed to support veterans.

Some of these services may already provide treatment to you during your discharge period.

There are also services that support veterans mental health.

Actions to take when moving to civilian healthcare

If you are unsure of what to do when you leave the armed forces, there are several actions you can take to make your transition from military to civilian healthcare a lot easier.

Do

  • collect your medical records and important paperwork
  • talk to a medical officer about continuing treatment
  • register with an NHS GP surgery
  • help your GP access your military medical records
  • tell a GP to record you as a veteran
  • register with a dentist

Collect your medical records and important paperwork

To make sure you are not at a disadvantage in continuing your healthcare after leaving the armed forces, it is important to get 3 documents before your final discharge date. These are:

  • an NHS welcome letter that explains the process of transferring from military healthcare to an NHS GP surgery and civilian dentist, as well as information on what a GP can do to help you as a veteran
  • a form (FMed133A) that includes important details for your GP surgery, including a summary of medical treatments, vaccinations and specialist care received
  • a paper copy of your summary medical records, which contains more detailed information about the medical treatment you have received while in the armed forces

You will usually receive the NHS welcome letter and the form during your final medical assessment at the end of your discharge period. Ask for them if you do not receive them.

You will not usually be given a paper copy of your summary medical records unless you ask your medical centre. It is better to ask for this earlier in your discharge period as it may take a while to arrive.

Talk to a medical officer about continuing treatment

If you receive specialist healthcare treatment or are medically discharged, it is important to ask a medical officer about how you can continue your treatment after your discharge date.

There are services who can provide support and treatment to you during your discharge period and after your discharge date. These include:

  • the Veterans Trauma Network, for physical injuries caused during service
  • Op COURAGE: the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service

Ask a medical officer about getting a referral to these services if you need them.

Find more information about the Veterans Trauma Network and healthcare for veterans.

Find more information about Op COURAGE and mental health support for veterans.

Register with an NHS GP surgery

The NHS welcome letter you received during your discharge will encourage you to register with an NHS GP surgery.

Register with a GP surgery.

It is recommended you register with a GP 1 to 3 months before you are discharged, or as soon as possible after this if you have not already.

If you register early, your GP surgery can request your complete medical records from Defence Medical Services (DMS). This may happen before you have been discharged. This means they can treat you using your full military medical record sooner after your discharge.

It usually takes several months for your GP surgery to receive your full military medical records.

Your GP surgery will automatically receive any previous NHS medical records you may have when you register.

Once your GP surgery has your full records, a GP can give you better healthcare advice, as well as quickly refer you to any specialist care you might need.

Help your GP access your military medical records

When you first visit a GP at your GP surgery, it is important to give them the medical summary form (FMed133A) you received when you were discharged from the armed forces.This form includes the details needed for them to request your complete medical records from DMS.

It is important to ask a GP to request your complete medical records if they do not already know to do so.

You can also give them a paper copy of your summary medical records if you asked for one during your discharge period. They might need this if they do not have access to your full military medical records yet.

Once a GP has your complete medical records, they will be aware of your medical history and can give you the healthcare treatment you need.

You can also give them your NHS welcome letter. This provides information to them about how to help you.

GOV.UK: Find information about and get a copy of your own medical records.

Accessing full medical records without an FMed133A form

If you or a GP has lost the form containing the information on how they can access your full medical records, a GP can email to arrange its transferral instead.

For Royal Navy/Royal Marines: NAVYINM-RNServiceLeavers@mod.gov.uk

For British Army: APC-sp-disclosures3@mod.gov.uk

For Royal Air Force: Air-COSPers-Disclosures@mod.gov.uk

Tell a GP to record you as a veteran in your NHS medical notes

When you first visit your GP surgery, it is important to tell the GP you see that you are a veteran.

Ask them to record this in your NHS medical notes if it is not already there. They can do this by putting a specific code that represents veterans into your medical records.

Being flagged as a veteran means you are more likely to receive specialist veteran care and consideration, and GPs are able to refer you to specialist veteran services if you need them.

Register with a dentist

Your NHS welcome letter will also encourage you to find a dentist.

It is important to do this as soon as possible.

Find more information about receiving dental care.

Leaving the armed forces as a commonwealth veteran

If you are a member of the commonwealth armed forces, the process of transitioning from military healthcare is different.

You will receive free healthcare up to your discharge date.

In order to receive free healthcare through the NHS after this date, you must gain indefinite leave by applying to settle in the UK.

When to apply for UK settlement

Information:

  • you must apply within 2 years of your discharge date
  • the earliest you can apply is 10 weeks before your discharge date
  • it is recommended you apply as soon as possible after the 10 week point
  • you will not receive free NHS healthcare after your discharge date and before you have gained indefinite leave

The process may differ depending on how long you served and where you served, as well as if you have family members who are also looking to settle in the UK.

GOV.UK: Find more information on settling in the UK after serving in the armed forces.

Get support during your transition period

If you need help during the transition period after leaving the armed forces, there are many services and organisations that can support you.

These services cover various issues, including healthcare, welfare, financial support and family care.

Veterans Welfare Services

The Veterans Welfare Service provides one-to-one advice and support to all veterans, their families and carers. This includes veterans who have been medically discharged.

It is run by the MoD and Veterans UK.

GOV.UK: Find more information and get in touch with the Veterans Welfare Service.

Defence Transition Services

Defence Transition Services (DTS) helps service leavers and their families by providing tailored care and support to improve your transition period.

It is run by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Veterans UK.

DTS works closely with the service leaver and their family to prepare support specific to your situation. They can introduce you to other services and organisations if you need help from them, and will help identify, assess and support your individual and family needs.

There are many ways to access DTS, including:

  • self referral
  • referral from another service or organisation
  • referral from your in-service unit

GOV.UK: Find more information about DTS, including how to access it.

Veterans UK

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.

GOV.UK: Find more information and get in touch with Veterans UK.

Integrated Personal Comissioning 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.

Find more information on IPC4V, including benefits and eligibility.

Specialist services for veterans

If you are a veteran with specific serious injuries or mental health problems, a GP may be able to refer you to a number of specialist services during or after your transition from the armed forces.

There are many different types of services, including:

  • support for disabled veterans
  • welfare support
  • financial healthcare
  • mental health
  • family and carer support

Find more information on veteran healthcare and specialist services.

Find more information on veteran mental health services.