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Armed Forces: Medical Services

Volume 692: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the career structure for the military medical branch. [HL4015]

The military medical branch comprises members of the Royal Navy, Army and RAF commissioned cadres and non-commissioned other ranks, which together form the Defence Medical Services (DMS).

The commissioned cadres comprise medical and dental officers, nursing officers, and commissioned members of some allied health profession cadres.

All DMS officers are commissioned and career managed and gain promotion through respective single service regulations.

Medical and Dental Officers

Medical and dental officers enter service either on a bursary/cadetship while still at university; through direct entry once qualified, post-graduation; or on re-entry terms for those who re-join the Armed Forces after previous service.

Commissions offered comprise:

short commission (SC) (six years);

medium commission (MC) (a maximum of 18 years reckonable service); and

full commission (FC), which enables service to the normal retirement age (NRA) of 58 years with the possibility of extending to age 60 years.

Following graduation as a doctor and having completed basic military training, which varies in length between each service, junior medical officers may elect to progress their professional training either as a general medical practitioner or follow a hospital-based specialist career, where training can take about 10 years or more to complete.

Normally, on graduation medical officers are promoted to OF2 rank (Surgeon Lieutenant (RN)/Captain (Army)/Flight Lieutenant (RAF)). OF3 rank (Surgeon Lieutenant Commander/Major/Squadron Leader) is gained by timed promotion, normally on the date of attaining five years’ seniority in the rank of OF2. Promotion to substantive OF4 rank (Surgeon Commander/Lieutenant Colonel/Wing Commander) follows after six years seniority in the substantive OF3 rank. Individuals would be eligible for substantive promotion to OF5 (Surgeon Captain/Colonel/Group Captain) rank, usually having attained eight years’ seniority in the rank of OF4. Progression to OF6 rank (Surgeon Commodore/Brigadier/Air Commodore) is on having attained three years’ seniority in the substantive rank of OF5 and having been selected for the higher medical management medical pay spine. Beyond OF6 promotion is by selection on merit to a specific appointment.


Members of the nursing cadre are either commissioned officers or non-commissioned other rank (OR).

Types of commission are:

SC being six years’ reckonable service extended to eight years if required;

MC to a total of 16 years; and

FC up to a NRA of 55 years for OF5 rank and below. Promotion is on eligibility with an expectation to reach OF4 rank after about 14 years’ service.

Nursing officers enter the services at either OF1 or OF2 rank (depending on their experience). On reaching four years’ seniority at OF1 nursing officers can receive automatic promotion to OF2. Promotion to OF3 is subject to selection after four years served in the rank of OF2. Officers are eligible for selection for promotion to OF4 rank after six years at OF3 rank, provided that they can complete two complete years at the higher rank. Officers are only promoted into OF4 ranks provided there is a suitable vacancy for them to fill. Officers of OF4 rank can be selected for promotion to OF5 after four years’ substantive service. Again they are required to be able to complete two complete years at the higher rank and are promoted only into suitable vacancies. Promotion to higher ranks is by selection only.

Nursing officers are registered nurses on the appropriate part of the Register of the Nursing Midwifery Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and have a minimum of two years’ recognised post-registration experience. They normally enter as direct entry officers up to the age of 39 years.

Re-entrant officers can re-enter service up to the maximum age of 49 years with previous military service recognised and relevant intervening experience calculated to give additional seniority up to a maximum of six years.

OR student nurses can join their service via one of two routes. Those on student route 1 commence nurse training having first completed basic recruit training. Those on student route 2 make an internal trade transfer from other trade groups into the nursing cadre. There is a direct entry (DE) for qualified nurses under the age of 33 years. Commissioning opportunities are available for OR nurses.

Allied Health Practitioners (AHPs)

AHPs comprise a wide range of medical specialties, ranging from non-commissioned cadres such as dental hygienists and healthcare assistants, to fully-commissioned cadres such as physiotherapists and environmental health officers. Commissioned AHPs generally are on the same terms and conditions of service as the rest of the non-medical branches of the three services, with potential maximum promotion to OF5 (Colonel-equivalent) rank. Entry into this group is either on commissioned terms as DE, or by promotion from the ranks. Maximum commissioned service can be to age 55 years. OR entrants can be either DE if already qualified or they can enlist and be trained within the military structure for some AHP non-commissioned trades.