If you have served in the armed forces as a regular or a reserve then you may be entitled to healthcare support as a veteran.
The armed forces covenant
NHS Scotland and all Scottish health boards have signed the armed forces covenant which says that:
- veterans should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in using or accessing public and commercial services
- special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for the injured and the bereaved
Leaving the armed forces
When you leave the armed forces and return to civilian life, you should register with your local GP. Tell your GP that you have been in the forces and let them know if you have any medical conditions that are a direct result of your service. However, it is your choice whether or not you wish to be identified as a veteran in your NHS medical records.
When you leave the forces you will be offered an F Med 13 which you should give to your civilian GP. This summarises your medical history, immunisation and screening status, and current medication.
Your medical records from your time in service are held by the MOD and can be shared with your GP with your signed consent.
Veterans should receive priority treatment for ongoing health problems that are a direct result of their service unless there is an emergency case or another case that demands higher clinical priority. If you have health condition that fits this description and that needs treatment, please tell your GP.
“Priority treatment” should not be interpreted as “preferential treatment”. Veterans with health conditions that are not a direct result of service in the armed forces will not be given priority treatment.
With much faster access to NHS treatment for all patients, priority treatment provisions for veterans may be less significant than they were in the past.
Some veterans may develop mental health conditions as a result of their service in the armed forces. Common mental health conditions include anxiety or depression, or more complex and less common conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions are treatable and people can either fully recover or manage their condition to live healthy and productive lives.
Some people may not experience symptoms of these conditions until some years after leaving the armed forces, and the culture of the forces may put you off seeking help.
NHS Scotland and the wider veterans community provides a range of care and support. This includes dedicated mental health services, that offer a range of treatments and self-help advice if you are experiencing mild, moderate or more complex mental health conditions.
The first point of call for accessing NHS care is usually your GP. You can discuss any issue with the GP who can also arrange referral to more specialist services if that is necessary. There are a range of other services, including support for those who may need help out-of-hours.
Veterans First Point
Veterans First Point drop-in services are available across Scotland and were developed by veterans for veterans. This offers a “One Stop Shop” for help and assistance to veterans, and their families, no matter what that need might be, including physical or mental health issues, housing, socialising, education, employment and other issues. For further information visit the Veterans First Point website.
Combat Stress is the UK's leading charity for veterans' mental health and provides support to veterans from every service. It operates a free and confidential 24-hour Helpline to talk about mental health, which family members or cares can use too.
Breathing Space is a free and confidential phone line (0800 83 85 87), aimed at people experiencing low mood or depression. It provides a safe and supportive space by listening, offering advice and information.
Samaritans offers a safe place for you to talk any time, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you (you don’t have to be suicidal). You can call confidentially, free and from any phone on 116 123.
There is a lot of other support available and you can find further details on the Scottish Government website around:
In 2016 health and social care provision in Scotland was integrated. If you have difficulty resolving social care issues, whether or not they are related to health matters, you can take the problem to your local authority armed forces and veterans champion. A list of local authority champions can be found on the Veterans Assist website.
Compensation for service-related injury
The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) can be accessed by veterans or serving personnel with a service-related condition or injury that happened on or after 6 April 2005. This is regardless of whether the condition or injury occurred in connection with hostilities. You must apply for the scheme no later than 7 years after sustaining the injury or illness, unless you are claiming for an illness that started later (this is sometimes known as a 'late onset illness'). The AFCS can be claimed while in active service.
The War Pension Scheme (WPS) includes the War Disablement Pension and can be accessed by any veteran with a service-related condition or injury before 6 April 2005 regardless of whether it occurred in connection with hostilities. The WPS can only be claimed after discharge.
Veteran Welfare Service (VWS)
Veterans UK is the MoD’s veterans agency. The Veterans Welfare Service (VWS) is provided by Veterans UK to support veterans eligible to claim for the AFCS or War Disablement Pension. Help and guidance can be given through either telephone contact or dedicated visiting service.
Citizens Advice Scotland
The Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP) is a service delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland to provide dedicated information, advice and support to members of the armed forces community in Scotland.
You can call their helpline free of charge on 0808 800 1007 (Monday to Friday, from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM).