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Armed Forces: Defence Medical Services

Volume 690: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2007

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Over the past 12 months the Ministry of Defence has undertaken a thorough review of the Defence Medical Services (DMS) manpower requirement. The aim of this review was to determine the number of uniformed, regular DMS personnel required to support operations consistent with overall defence planning assumptions, provide full healthcare and allow for continued training and the provision of headquarters staff during deployment. The review has now been completed and I am now in a position to inform the House of the new DMS manpower requirement. I am convinced it provides a credible baseline on which the DMS can base its planning and ensure that the excellent level of healthcare which it provides both on operations and, in collaboration with the NHS, in the UK, is sustained into the future.

The last full review of the DMS uniformed regular manpower requirement took place at the time of the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) more than eight years ago, and produced a requirement for a grand total of 8,970 posts (the SDR total). This, however, exceeded the available medical manpower and subsequent experience in support of deployed operations showed that a different balance of medical specialisms was more appropriate. Hence a lower overall figure was adopted as a pragmatic interim basis for funding a different mix of established posts (the established liability). To ensure that the requirement was valid not just in the light of emerging practice on operations since SDR, but also to be consistent with current defence-wide planning assumptions, a formal review was undertaken, starting in January 2006. The review was carried out by the multi-disciplinary Medical Operational Capability (Med Op Cap) project team, drawing on previous studies, lessons learnt work, high-level operational analysis and incorporating military judgment.

The overall result of this work is that the DMS baseline uniformed regular manning requirement (the Med Op Cap requirement) has now been set at 7,573 posts plus an additional manning and training margin of 678, making a grand total of 8,251 posts.

This compares to the previous established liability of 7,741 posts plus a manning and training margin of 543, making a grand total of 8,284 posts.

The SDR grand total of 8,970 posts did not separately specify within it a manning and training margin.

As at 1 January 2007, the uniformed regular manning was 6,497 (namely, the number of people we actually have rather than the number of posts required).

There are also some significant changes within individual medical cadres between the SDR and the Med Op Cap requirement, with some cadres increasing and some decreasing. Some additional potential for civilianisation of up to 320 posts in the Med Op Cap total requirement was identified by the review, which will be investigated further.

I shall place full details of the new requirements against individual cadres in the Library of the House. It is a necessarily complex package, but one which provides an essential building-block for the DMS to focus its efforts on addressing the most critical shortfalls.

The impact of the new requirement on the individual career paths for personnel in the Royal Navy, Army and RAF Medical Services will be small. The review has validated the existing policy of maximising capability from staffing our field hospitals on a collaborative tri-service basis.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the DMS continues to be sufficiently flexible to respond to future operational challenges. The recent review of the DMS uniformed regular manpower requirement is a necessary and positive step to achieving this.