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Armed Forces: Health Services

Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what financial contribution he has made to those primary care trusts with the greatest number of serving and veteran service personnel within their areas. (170214)

While they are in the armed forces, British service personnel receive free medical treatment through the Defence Medical Services. When they leave the armed forces and when reservists are demobilised, the responsibility for their health care is transferred to the NHS. For in-service personnel and reservists, the Department annually commissions some £29 million of activity (out-patients and in-patient care) from the five NHS trusts hosting MOD Hospital Units (MDHUs) and from University Hospital Birmingham NHS foundation trust (UHBFT). This includes approximately £6.5 million for emergency care that we pay the MDHU host trusts and which is delivered under emergency access standards.

The remainder (some £22.5 million annually) is used to commission accelerated access care over and above current NHS waiting times. Many service personnel are also referred into their local district general hospital by their referring GPs. In addition, we spend just over £1 million annually for other fast track access outside our MDHU host trusts.

Introduced in 1953, NHS Priority Treatment was restricted to veterans with disablements accepted under our Armed Forces Compensation Scheme as service-related. The Health Secretary announced on 23 November that extended priority treatment will be available to all veterans whose conditions are suspected by the general practitioner of being service-related. Any costs will be paid for by the NHS. I announced the launch of the new veterans' mental health pilots in parallel as an important initiative to improve services for those with mental health problems. The MOD will provide start up costs to the six pilot sites participating in the scheme and cover the cost of project evaluation; we expect the total cost of the pilots to the Department to be some £500,000. Any pilot cost beyond this will be the responsibility of the local NHS trusts.