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Information and support for families

Find information and support for families of serving personnel, reservists, service leavers and veterans.

If you are a family member, partner or carer of someone who is or was in the armed forces, it is important that you and anyone else in your family can get the healthcare you need. This includes knowing how to get help and support if you have any problems.

If you are looking for services or support that can help a serving member, reservist or veteran in your family, you can find more information about:

Accessing healthcare for armed forces families

When based in the UK, most families of serving personnel, reservists and veterans access and receive their healthcare through the NHS.

Register as an armed forces family member at a GP surgery

You can ask a GP to register you as an armed forces family member on your medical records. They do this by adding a specific code representing armed forces families.

This means NHS staff accessing your medical records are more likely to be aware of your situation and can refer you to specialist care if you need it.

It also makes it easier for a new GP surgery to continue treating you if you move due to a new posting.

Register your child at a GP

Parents must usually register their child at a GP surgery where at least one parent or carer is registered.

This is different for the armed forces community as you are allowed to register your child at a GP surgery if both parents are registered with Defence Medical Services (DMS) instead.

You may also be able to register your child with a DMS practice instead of an NHS GP if you are registered there too.

Accessing healthcare when moving

If you are moving due to serving personnel postings, it is important to inform any healthcare services you or your family use.

This may include:

  • your GP surgery
  • health visitors
  • your dentist
  • school nurses
  • any other local health services you use

You may also need to register with new services closer to where you are moving, such as a new GP surgery.

This allows the healthcare services to transfer any medical records quickly so you can continue to receive care and support as soon as possible after moving.

Stay registered with your current health services for as long as you can until you have registered with new ones.

Waiting lists

If you move home due to a posting in the UK, it is normal for your current place on any NHS waiting lists to be transferred to your new area.

However, this does not guarantee you will have the same waiting time.

Waiting times may be shorter or longer depending on the clinical need in the area you are moving to.

Healthcare for armed forces families overseas

If you are moving overseas due to the posting of a family member, you will be pre-screened before leaving to make sure any health and education needs can be supported.

While overseas, Defence Primary Healthcare (DPHC) medical centres run by DMS will support you with:

  • on site GP services including regular check-ups, treatment and dental care
  • online GP support if you do not live near a DPHC medical centre

There may also be times when you will need to use healthcare services provided by the country you are in, such as in a medical emergency.

When you return to the UK, it is important to register your family with a GP as soon as possible.

Help and support

If you have any problems getting the healthcare you need, there are many ways you can get help. This includes:

Serving personnel can also get advice and support for problems affecting their family. You can talk to:

  • your commanding officer
  • a divisional officer, or the Naval Family and People Support Service (Royal Navy only)
  • a unit welfare officer, or the Army Welfare Service (British Army only)
  • the Officer Commanding Personnel Management Squadron, or the RAF Personnel Support and Social Work Service (Royal Air Force only)

These organisations and people can give you advice on how to handle a problem so you are not at a disadvantage in receiving your healthcare.

Welfare support for families

There are a number of organisations who provide advice and support to help you with any problems or questions you and your family might have.

Families Federations

The 3 Service Families Federations offer independent and confidential advice on a range of issues. They work to improve the quality of life for all service families.

They regularly engage with the chain of command, the NHS, local authorities and government to represent the views of armed forces families.

Each of the 3 services has its own welfare support and information service teams and Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS).

For more information about:

Defence Medical Welfare Services (DMWS)

The DMWS is a charity that works for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

It works with other charities to provide practical and emotional support to serving personnel, reservists, veterans and their families when they're in hospital, rehabilitation or recovery centres.

DMWS: Find more information

The Armed Forces Covenant

The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge made by the government, charities, organisations and businesses to provide the same treatment to members of the armed forces community as any other citizen.

This includes making sure armed forces family members can get support when needed, such as:

  • access to healthcare
  • access to education
  • finding, renting, buying and moving into a home
  • starting a new career
  • financial assistance

The Armed Forces Covenant works with services, charities and organisations to make sure you get the support you need. This includes the Navy, Army and RAF welfare support organisations and information services.

Armed Forces Covenant: Support and advice for families

Mental health support for families

If you are worried your mental health or the mental health of someone in your family is being affected by armed forces life, you can contact services and charities dedicated to giving families mental health help and advice.

These services and charities are here to support armed forces communities, including all family members. Do not be afraid to contact them if you need their support.

NHS mental health advice and urgent support

If you want support for a specific mental health condition, you can find information through our A-Z of mental health conditions.

You can also find local or specific mental health charities.

Op COURAGE: the Veterans Health and Wellbeing Service

Op COURAGE provides a range of different mental health support to family members of serving personnel with a discharge date, reservists and veterans.

They can help you in many ways, including:

  • offering you an assessment for your mental health
  • supporting you in a mental health crisis
  • providing you the right treatment for early or advanced mental health problems
  • helping you to access other local services that can help

Find more information about Op COURAGE

Combat Stress

If you need to talk to somebody, Combat Stress have dedicated mental health support helplines for serving personnel, reservists, veterans and their families.

They are a charity who provide confidential advice and support.

They operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and are free to call.

The helpline for veterans, non-mobilised reservists and their families is 0800 138 1619.

The helpline for serving personnel, mobilised reservists and their families is 0800 323 4444.


Togetherall is a mental health support services that provides:

  • anonymous, round-the-clock online support with trained counsellors
  • a supportive community, including forums for safe conversation
  • free resources to help you improve your mental health

All armed forces serving personnel, reservists, veterans and their families can access these services at any time.

Pregnancy and fertility support

If you or your partner are trying to have a child, are pregnant or have just had a child, it is important to know what options you have and what actions to take.

Support for pregnancy in the armed forces

If you become pregnant while serving in the armed forces, it is important to inform your medical officer as soon as possible. This means you and your baby can receive protective treatment and support.

During and after pregnancy, you are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. If you need paternity leave, you can claim different amounts of time but it cannot start until the baby is born and must be taken within 56 days of the birth.

If both parents are serving after the birth of your baby, it is important to inform your chain of command so that the services can try not to deploy both parents at the same time.

Fertility support

DMS can provide testing for fertility issues in serving personnel, but they do not provide treatment.

If you and your partner are having trouble conceiving, talk to a GP or doctor. They may be able to refer you to treatment under the NHS Armed Forces Commissioning Assisted Conception policy.

If fertility treatment is required and agreed upon, the MoD will try to avoid moving you to a new posting for up to 3 years so that you and your partner can consistently receive the care you need.

Find more information about infertility, including diagnosis and treatment

Page last reviewed: 18 August 2021
Next review due: 18 August 2024