HC Deb 19 July 2004 vol 424 cc31-2W
Mr. Swayne

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Department provides a single seamless health service to British servicemen and women and their families serving in Germany; and if he will make a statement. [183258]

Mr. Caplin

The British Forces Germany (BFG) health service is responsible for the provision of health care for the Army, and the few remaining RAF personnel in Germany. It aims to provide a seamless service to its patients, which include civilian staff and families, and standards of service at least comparable to those of the national health service.

The BFG health service brings together military personnel, Guy's and St. Thomas' National Health Trust and the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association (SSAFA) into a co-operative military/ civilian and public/private working partnership backed by open-book financial arrangements and close collaboration at every management level.

Primary care is provided by medical centres located in each of the Garrisons and run by military and civilian medical staff employed by the Defence Medical Service supported by SSAFA.

Hospital-based care is provided, through Guy's and St. Thomas' as prime contractor, at five German hospitals selected to serve the areas where British forces are based in Germany.

In the German hospitals, Guy's and St. Thomas' liaison staff provide on-site support to patients. British style menus are available as well as English language television and newspapers.

Services are continually monitored to ensure that standards are maintained and as part of this process regular patient satisfaction surveys are conducted.

Mr. Swayne

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what duty he has to provide medical services to Service personnel; and if he will make a statement; [183259]

(2) whether he has a duty to provide medical services for Servicemen and women and their families equivalent to the duty of the Secretary of State under the Health Act 1977; and if he will make a statement. [183257]

Mr. Caplin

The main activity of the Ministry of Defence is to deliver security for the people of the United Kingdom and the Overseas Territories by defending their security, including against terrorism, and so to act as a force for good by strengthening international peace and stability. In doing so, it has a responsibility as an employer, to take care of all its personnel. However, this responsibility is not equivalent to that of the Secretary of State for Health who, under the Health Act 1977 has a duty to: continue the promotion in England and Wales of a comprehensive health service.

As part of its responsibility to take care of all its personnel the Ministry of Defence, through the Defence Medical Services, provides comprehensive medical services, to standards at least equal to the NHS, to Servicemen and women in peace, war and operations other than war in order to maintain military capability. In the main, primary care is delivered by the single Services. Secondary care for Service personnel is usually provided through routine treatment within the NHS unless there are operational reasons to do otherwise. In the UK, medical services for families of Servicemen and women are usually provided within the NHS. Overseas, the Ministry of Defence is committed to providing medical services for families accompanying Service personnel which are comparable to those provided by the NHS.