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What can the Defence Medical Services learn from the COVID-19 pandemic in order to be ready for the future?
  1. Charles Newman
  1. JHubMed, Royal Army Medical Corps, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Capt Charles Newman, JHubMed, Royal Army Medical Corps, London, UK; charles.newman{at}


The COVID-19 pandemic placed significant global pressure on public health, with the demand for specialist clinical input, equipment and therapeutics often outweighing supply in many well-established healthcare systems. The UK was no exception to this burden, resulting in unprecedented demands being placed on its NHS. Throughout the pandemic, the UK Defence Medical Services (DMS) aided the civilian healthcare sector, while concurrently adapting as an organisation to meet its enduring commitment in promoting the operational output of the wider UK Armed Forces. This paper serves to provide an overview of some of these key activities while offering proposed lessons which can be learnt, in order to promote the DMS’ output in times of future crises. Of note, the DMS aided to mitigate surge demands placed on the NHS’ supply chain, assisting in promoting its resilience to provide key materials to civilian clinical personnel. Adaptation of military policy generation mechanisms, together with adoption of novel technological approaches to promote remote working, empowered efficient DMS operational output throughout the pandemic. Direct provision of personnel to assist in the NHS’ clinical output served to foster mutually beneficial interorganisational relationships, while providing objective benefit for the UK public.

This paper was selected as the BMJ Military Health Royal Society of Medicine Colt Foundation National Essay Prize Winner 2021.

  • COVID-19
  • public health
  • telemedicine
  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • general medicine (see internal medicine)
  • health policy

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer This work is solely that of the named author and does not necessarily reflect official policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.