Veterans and the NHS

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

Priority treatment for veterans

The covenant states that 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”. The level of priority is based on your clinical need for treatment. Veterans with health conditions that are not a direct result of service in the armed forces will not be given priority treatment.

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.

Medical records

When you leave the forces you will be offered an F Med 133 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.

Health resources for veterans

Mental health

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

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 (0800 138 1619) to talk about mental health, which family members or cares can use too.

Breathing Space

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

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.

Bravehound

Bravehound provide companion dogs to veterans and then provide support for both the dog and veteran over the dogs’ life. They aim to support a smooth transition back into civilian life, helping ex-service personnel adjust to living with the visible and invisible wounds of war.

Other mental health resources

Physical health

Some veterans may sustain physical injuries as a result of their service in the armed forces and these injuries can impact their physical health as a civilian.

Physical injuries will be treated and people will either fully recover or manage their condition to live healthy and productive lives.

Amputation and prosthetics

Complex and severe injuries sustained in by serving in the armed forces may have require limb amputation. If you've lost a limb due to your service in the armed forces and were not fitted with a prosthetic at that time, you can discuss a referral to the NPS with your local GP.

The National Prosthetics Service (NPS) is Scotland's centre for designing and fitting prosthetic limbs.

Other physical health resources

More information on NHS Inform:

Veterans welfare and support

There are a number of welfare and support available in Scotland for those who have served in the armed forces.

Veterans health board champions

Every NHS Board in Scotland has an Armed Forces and Veterans Champion. NHS Board champions are usually senior members of staff who hold overall responsibility for making sure that the priority treatment guidelines are understood and applied in their NHS Board area.

How can an Armed Forces and Veterans Champion help me?

Champions help to raise awareness about the issues faced by the armed forces community, veterans and their families. Their role is to make sure that government policies are carried out so that veterans' rights are protected. They can help if you feel that the priority treatment policy hasn't been followed in your case. If this is something that affects you, please talk to your GP or another health professional involved in the provision of your treatment or care about your concerns before contacting your local Armed Forces and Veterans Champion.

How to contact an Armed Forces and Veterans Champion

For a full list of all the Armed Forces and Veterans Champions visit Veterans Assist Scotland.

Please note, the Champion should not be your first point of contact if you need medical information or advice. If you are a veteran and have health problems you would like to discuss, please contact your local GP practice.

Social care

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.

Useful resources

Useful resources from the realm of social care include:

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).

Other support

A wide range of other support available and you can find further details on the Scottish Government website around: