Definitions of service

Regular Service Personnel serving within the regular forces, whether the Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force, are on a full-time legally binding contract, the services have the responsibility for their medical, housing and welfare needs, however, the families of serving personnel will be required to register with a NHS GP and Dentist.

The military will access the NHS for specialist referrals and hospital admissions (these will be under pre-arranged contracts/agreements). The military welfare services will also link up with the local authority on a wide spectrum of cases that may arise with service families. Please also note that within the UK all service children access the local authority schools to where their parents are stationed/living.

Reservists are individuals living within the local community who have joined one of the Reserve Services (Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force) on a voluntary part-time basis, and therefore do not come under the military medical or welfare services, and remain the responsibility of the NHS and local authority welfare services.

They will only come under the military medical and welfare services when they are called out for operational service, once taken into full-time service the Reservist will have full access to medical and welfare services on the same basis as their Regular counterpart, their family will remain within the local community and remain with the NHS and local authority welfare services. However the unit they are serving on operations with and their parent unit will have a welfare responsibility for them, although in practical terms this proves to be quite difficult due to the distribution of the families and their unwillingness to engage with the services.

On completion of their period of full time service (usually for a 12 month period), they are demobilised, and will return back to the care of the NHS and local authority welfare services, and will not have access to the military medical or welfare services, the exception to this is the Reserve Mental Health Programme (RMHP), however, most reserve units will use the military welfare services to support the Reservist and their family where possible.

Regular Reserve

Regular Reservists are ex regular service personnel who on leaving the Regular services have a Reserve commitment, the length of their Reserve commitment will depend on their length of Regular service, they will also be classed as veterans. These Reservists are subject to call out for operational service, and in a number of cases, they will volunteer to undertake a period of operational service similar to that of the voluntary Reserve, and under the same terms of service.

Those who were called up for National Service are covered by the Armed Forces Covenant. However, an announcement was made in 1957 to abolish national service. The last entrants into service were in November 1960, with formal call-ups ending from 31 December 1960. The last National Serviceman leaving true Armed Forces was in May 1963.

All ex-service personnel are veterans and these are individuals who have served as a member of the regular services, voluntary reserve and national service. In some cases ex-regular serving personnel will join the voluntary reserve and will serve a number of years as a reservist and may well deploy on operational service. All ex-service personnel are reliant on the NHS and local authority welfare services, however there are a considerable number of service charities and organisations set up to help and assist the ex-service community.

The Merchant Navy and UK fishing fleets have always been called upon to provide support to both the UK Armed Forces and the Nation during wartime, other hostilities and military operations.

British merchant seafarers normally have Discharge Books which contain details of the vessels in which they served including the dates. The names and dates of those ships that sailed into the operational zones are retained in the records held by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Registry of Shipping and Seamen. Therefore, proof of service is based on confirmation of the individual’s ship discharge record and that ship’s service in support of UK military operations.

The definition for a member of the Merchant Navy to come under the Armed Forces Covenant has been agreed nationally as
‘Anyone who has served on a commercial vessel at a time when it was operated to facilitate legally defined UK military operations by HM Armed Forces’ and these personnel be called “UK Merchant Seafaring Veterans”.

Ex-Merchant Navy personnel who do not fall under the Armed Forces Covenant may be able to access support via the Merchant Navy Association.

South East Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association (SE-RFCA) is one of 13 RFCAs UK-wide, SE-RFCA is a Ministry of Defence (MOD) Crown body, responsible to the Defence Council, but separate from military chains-of-command. SE-RFCA gives support to the Reserve Forces and Cadets from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force in the Counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, East and West Sussex.


A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Young Carer

A Young Carer is a child or young person under the age of 18 carrying out significant caring tasks and assuming a level of responsibility for another person, which would normally be taken by an adult.

Military Young Carer

A child or young person who is caring for a parent/sibling who has returned from combat injured, both physically or emotionally, or they may be caring for the parent/sibling who has health problems while their other parent is away with the military.


This is defined as immediate family such as spouses, civil partners, and children for whom the (ex) serving personnel are responsible for.

In July 2015, the NHS Constitution was updated and now states:
The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does. …. As part of this, the NHS will ensure that in line with the Armed Forces Covenant, those in the armed forces, reservists, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged in accessing health services in the area the reside.

The NHS is split into different levels with certain organisations commissioning different services. NHS England commissions on behalf of the national population and with Clinical Commissioning Groups providing more localised services for their community.

In relation to the Armed Forces, NHS England commissions certain services for the armed forces community, particularly Regular Armed Forces personnel (eg IVF).

Clinical Commissioning Groups co-commission GP services with NHS England and will see to the every day needs for their population including the armed forces community. The Clinical Commissioning Groups are clinically led and are responsible for healthcare commissioning such as mental health services, urgent and emergency care, elective hospital services, and community care.

In Sussex and Kent & Medway, there are 3 County Councils and 2 Unitary Councils who provide social care, housing and work with Public Health England in providing joint strategic needs assessments. These are:

All councils have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and have a Civil Military Partnership Board (or equivalent).

Further information about the services available can be located under Resources.


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