VPPP Partner Spotlight: Defence Medical Welfare Service

An introduction to Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS), one of VOS’s partners within the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme

Veterans Outreach Support is proud to be the grant holder for the South-East region Portfolio of the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme, working with our partners to provide activities, services and support to local veterans. To showcase the excellent support and mental health resources for veterans that these organisations offer, we’re giving you a deeper insight into what they do and shining a spotlight on the hardworking people who run them. Today we’ll be introducing you to ‘Defence Medical Welfare Service’, also known as DMWS.

Two people walking along on a path next to a fenced off field with trees on it. The person on the right is wearing a white shirt, and the person on the left is wearing a long black coat with the words "Defence Medical Welfare Service" on it in white. | VOS

What is Defence Medical Welfare Service?

Formed in 1943 from the Joint War Committee of the Order of St John and the British Red Cross, Defence Medical Welfare Service is a charity that offers medical welfare support to veterans, members of the armed forces and the Merchant Navy, NHS staff and emergency services and their immediate family members when they are going through treatment in hospital. They provide practical and emotional support to help these people feel less alone when dealing with illness or injury. Their mission is to deliver a high-quality medical welfare service to the people who serve our nation during times of physical or mental ill health.


What does Defence Medical Welfare Service do?

As a provider of welfare support to those serving on the front line, Defence Medical Welfare Service works with patients whose medical needs are being met but who have other difficulties preventing them from moving forwards in their recovery. These difficulties vary from person to person, so the support that DMWS provides is person-centred and uniquely tailored to each individual that they work with. Some forms their support could take are: offering a confidential and impartial listening ear; visiting patients in hospital and providing clinic and outpatient appointment support; explaining and resolving medical care issues; recognising issues that may be impacting a patient’s wellbeing; providing referrals to other agencies for specific support; supporting the bereaved and terminally ill; resolving conflict and managing expectations; and many more. No matter the issues a person is facing, DMWS helps them to navigate the patient care pathway by improving their wellbeing and supporting them through their recovery. DMWS offers support to patients and their family members, but also to their primary caregivers and healthcare professionals, and operates within hospitals and recovery centres in the UK and Cyprus.

The work of DMWS is based on the values of commitment, integrity, people and working together. They are wholly committed to those that they support and to providing their medical welfare services whenever and wherever those people are, and they always act with integrity, consistency and honesty. They support and encourage each other to develop further, and they work collaboratively within their own service as well as with others in order to provide the best possible support.

A brief look at the history of Defence Medical Welfare Service

Since its formation in 1943, originally as the Service Hospital Welfare Department (SHWD), DMWS has provided extensive support to members of the armed forces and the Merchant Navy, NHS staff and emergency services and their families. In 2001, the organisation became an independent charity and the name was changed to Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS). They are the only medical welfare service to have deployed to every major conflict since World War 2, working alongside medical staff in field hospitals, and they offered medical welfare support during key conflicts such as the Suez Crisis, The Falklands War, the War in Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War. They have also provided their services during medical crises such as the Ebola Crisis and have continued to work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and also supported people affected by the Manchester Arena attack in 2017.

The DMWS has received several awards, and in 2021 was awarded ‘Charity of the Year’ at the South West Business and Community awards in recognition of their work delivered in the South of England supporting the armed forces, the Merchant Navy, veterans, police officers and their families and carers, and particularly how quickly they diversified and adapted to continue their work during the Covid-19 pandemic. Paul Waite, the Chief Executive of Aspen Waite and judge at the awards said: “​​What a fantastic charity Defence Medical Welfare Service is. It provided much needed support to a variety of the UK’s services. Moving their service online, doing doorstep drops of care and medical packages stopping vulnerable people from being isolated during Covid-19.” This year, two DMWS Welfare Officers, Lee Bayley and Justine Clayton, are shortlisted finalists for the Family Values Award at the Soldiering On Awards 2022.

A photo of a person sitting at a desk in front of a laptop. They are holding a telephone handset to their ear, and are wearing a white shirt with the Defence Medical Welfare Service logo on the white breast. The logo is a yellow lion with the letters DMWS in green underneath. In the background on a shelf is a stuffed lion toy wearing a green t-shirt with the Defence Medical Welfare Service logo n it. | VOS

(Written by Saskia Egeland-Jensen)

Veterans Outreach Support is proud to work in partnership with Defence Medical Welfare Service to provide welfare and wellbeing support to veterans, serving members of the British Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy and their families.


VOS is here to support veterans from the UK Armed Forces service, the Merchant Navy, and their partners. If you know a veteran (from any time of service), please pass our details along. If you’re a veteran or partner and are thinking about getting in touch, we would love to hear from you. Call us on 02392 731 767, visit one of our drop-ins, or email admin@vosuk.org.

NEXT – Read about another of our VPPP partners, Walking With The Wounded

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