Army families posted to Northern Ireland will no longer fall to the bottom of NHS waiting lists when they move to the province.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey yesterday unveiled a new protocol for liaison between his department and the armed forces in the province.
It will ensure that members of the armed forces, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged when seeking access to health and social care services and get the same services as the rest of the population.
The protocol was presented by Mr McGimpsey to Kevan Jones, MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans at a reception in Hillsborough Castle.
Mr McGimpsey said: “I am determined that we in Northern Ireland ensure the support given to members of the armed forces and their families and veterans is, wherever possible, comparable to that available elsewhere in the United Kingdom.”
He said the Government's 2008 Command Paper ‘The Nation’s Commitment' challenged administrations across the UK to recognise the particular issues facing military personnel and their families when seeking to access public services.
“The obligation upon them to move frequently from base to base means that they often experience difficulties accessing health and social care services which don't arise for other people living here.
“The new protocol will provide an opportunity for my officials and health and social care bodies to work with the armed forces and veterans' organisations to resolve those difficulties.
“It is our duty as a society to look after them and ensure their health and social care needs are fully met.”