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The armed forces community

Healthcare provision for a 10 million-strong community

The armed forces community comprises around 10 million people, towards whom the nation has a moral obligation due to service in the armed forces.

The armed forces community includes:

Serving personnel

There are approximately 140,000 serving personnel and families in England who are registered with the Defence Medical Services (DMS).


These are members of the public who accept an annual training commitment and can be deployed on operations. Ex-regular reservists are former members of the regular forces who can also be called up for service.

For non-mobilised and non-deployed reservists, please see the NHS healthcare for veterans pages.

For mobilised and deployed reservists, please refer to the Healthcare for the armed forces section.


Many service families (spouses, partners, dependent children and adults of serving personnel and veterans) are registered with NHS GP practices. Approximately 20,000 family members are registered with DMS services in England while their spouses are serving.


A veteran is anyone who has been a member of the UK armed forces for a day or more, or a non-mobilised reservist. There are approximately 2.6 million veterans in the UK.

Armed forces overseas

There are over 30,000 serving armed forces personnel and dependants in Germany, and more than 10,000 on other overseas operations and postings. All have a right to receive NHS care in the UK.

Page last reviewed: 24/06/2015

Next review due: 24/06/2018