Care of Veterans and Armed Forces

Our Duty to the Armed Forces Community

The NHS has a duty to deliver on a number of health commitments in relation to the Armed Forces community (this includes service personnel - both regular and reserves - their families, and veterans), which are set out in the Armed Forces Covenant and the NHS Constitution.

This includes:

  • 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 the NHS waiting list, if moved around the UK due to the service person being posted.
  • Veterans should receive priority treatment for a condition which relates to their service, subject to clinical need.
  • Those injured in service should be cared for in a way that reflects the nation's moral obligation to them, by healthcare professionals who understand the Armed Forces culture.

Visit the Armed Forces Covenant for more information.


Our Duty to the Veteran Community

For veterans who have deployed, rates of PTSD are higher at 9% and up to 17% for those who deployed in a frontline, infantry combat role.

Studies have shown that a range of mental health conditions may appear some years after individuals have left the armed forces. These conditions may relate to combat, training or other military experiences, transition our of service or even pre-service vulnerabilities.

The historical issues of stigma associated with mental health, and a traditional culture of reluctance to admitting to a perceived weakness or being in a position of having to ask for help, means that a substantial number of unwell veterans are unlikely to access the appropriate support and services.

The NHS offers three mental health services specifically targeted toward veterans. These services fall under a single title of Op Courage: the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service. This name has been developed by veterans and their families, and is intended to make the services easier to find.

Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) 

This is a dedicated out-patient service for serving personnel approaching discharge from the Armed Forces and veterans who are experiencing mental health difficulties. The TILS provides a range of treatment, from recognising the early signs of mental health problems and providing access to early support, to therapeutic treatment for complex mental health difficulties and psychological trauma. Help may also be provided with housing, employment, alcohol misuse and social support.

Veterans' Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS)

This is an enhanced out patient service for ex-forces who have military related complex mental health difficulties that have not improved with previous treatment. The service provides a range of intensive care and treatment that may include (but is not limited to) support for drug and alcohol misuse, physical health, employment, housing, relationships and finances, as well as occupational and trauma focused therapies.

Veterans' Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS)

The NHS Veterans Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS) for veterans needing urgent help who are in mental health crisis has been trialled in some regions since October 2020. It is now being rolled out across the country as part of a phased approach. Those needing urgent help will receive a same day referral.

Veterans can self-refer or be referred by their GP, a charity or family or friends.

To access specialist care through this single route of Op Courage see below: 

SSAFA: The Armed Forces Charity

SSAFA understand the unique demands of service life, whether it’s on UK soil or overseas. Support is available for people at any stage in their military career; from the youngest recruit to the oldest veteran – no one’s service is ever forgotten. They have more than 4,000 trained SSAFA volunteers who provide personalised, face-to-face support to those in their local area.

Phone: 0800 260 6767 (open 9am - 5.30pm Monday to Friday)


Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS)

DMWS are an independent charity providing medical welfare to the armed forces, veterans, NHS staff, emergency services, The Merchant Navy and their immediate family when they are receiving treatment in hospital. Their practical and emotional support ensures that no one goes through the worry of illness or injury alone.

Phone: 0800 999 3697