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When you are moving regularly, both in and out of the UK, finding medical and dental care for you and your family can be difficult and confusing.


When you move, the first thing to do is find out from your Welfare Office or HIVE whether you are able to register at a military Medical Centre or whether you need to register with a local GP. This will apply for dentists too but generally there is no provision for dental care anymore unless you are overseas.


It can be a bit frustrating, especially as your partner is automatically looked after. As a family, it almost feels as if you are less important and left to fend for yourself!


But don’t worry, you should be well supported through the normal NHS system and the Department of Health issues the following information for Forces families.


Families Medical Services in the UK

Eligible family members will normally be registered with a civilian GP and access NHS services in the same way as other members of the public.

Alternatively, on units with the capacity (usually those identified as training units for military medical staff) family members may have the option of being registered with a military GP. In this case, they will access NHS services through the Defence Medical Services.



Service families can access NHS dental services in the same way as other members of the public.

Unless you are exempt from charges, you will be required to pay one of three standard rates, depending on your course of treatment.

NHS primary care trusts have been asked to ensure that they plan to meet the needs of Service families in their areas.


Before moving into a new area, it is recommended that you identify NHS dentists in the area – your current dentist may be able to suggest someone. If you are having a problem with an appointment or need an urgent appointment for NHS dental services, you can call the dental helpline for the primary care trust, which will be able to advise you. Dental helpline numbers can be found on the NHS Choices website at or by calling NHS Direct on 0845 4647.


Hospital waiting lists

By the end of December 2008, NHS patients in England can expect to start their consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral, unless they choose to wait longer or it is clinically appropriate that they do so. This commitment also covers patients who move home and move between hospitals.


If you or a member of your family are currently on a waiting list for NHS treatment and are required to move between hospitals as a result of having to fulfil military duties, then discuss arrangements for transferring your care with the clinician who is currently treating you and contact your new GP and/or hospital as early as possible after you have moved, to discuss and confirm the arrangements for your treatment.


If you are moving within the UK, previous waiting time will be taken into account, with the expectation that treatment will be within national waiting time standards. Like anyone else moving between hospitals in the UK, you will be treated as quickly as possible based on clinical priority. This could mean in practice that you sometimes have a different time to wait if moving to another part of the UK.


The MOD has committed itself to ensuring that, if a member of the Armed Forces or their partner is undergoing IVF treatment, they do not move until their cycle of treatment is complete.


Armed Forces Serving Overseas

Service families living overseas may register with the Medical Centre to receive routine and emergency health care.


As a member of the Armed Forces serving overseas, you are entitled to full use of NHS specialist care facilities, without charge, if you return to the UK for treatment. Your specialist care will usually be provided by one of the six nominated NHS hospitals with which the MOD has a contract.



What to do if you have a complaint

Whether you are currently serving in the Armed Forces, a family member or a veteran, if you are unhappy about the healthcare services you have received, you should first discuss any problems with your clinician if possible.


If you are attending an NHS hospital or clinic, you can also talk to Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) staff or the complaints manager. They can usually resolve your concerns on the spot, or can provide you with details of how to complain. You can also visit NHS Choices at or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for advice about what to do.



Contacting the NHS

England: Tel: 0845 4647 NHS Direct
Scotland: Tel: 0845 4 24 24 24 (NHS 24)

Wales: Tel: 0845 46 47 N NHS Direct Wales

Northern Ireland Tel: 028 9032 4431 (Ask for Dental Branch):