The NHS and Armed Forces conference 2024: our shared purpose

Our virtual conference took place on 12 March 2024, recognising and reinforcing the mutual benefits of the NHS and Armed Forces relationship.

General information

12 March 2024 09:30 - 16:15 GMT
Open to all
Free to attend

If you signed up for the event, all session recordings are available to view on the platform for 30 days.

The NHS Employers annual Armed Forces virtual conference returned on 12 March 2024, recognising and showcasing NHS organisations who are striving to support Armed Forces Reservists and the wider Armed Forces community within the health and care workforce. 

We heard from speakers who shared their insights and experiences representing government, Defence Medical Services, the NHS and more.

Delegates heard how organisations, from ICBs to trusts, are working with the Step into Health programme to reduce disadvantage for the Armed Forces community to support recruitment into a range of NHS roles. 

They learnt how NHS trusts achieved the Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition scheme bronze, silver or gold accreditation along with examples of how to publicly demonstrate and advocate support to members of the Armed Forces Community.

Key themes included

• How to attract and retain members of the Armed Forces community within your NHS workforce. 

• Lived experience of the transition into employment in the NHS from members of the UK Armed Forces community.

• Beyond clinical roles: the wider workforce benefits and opportunities for the Armed Forces community. 

• The benefits of supporting Armed Forces Reservists, cadet force adult volunteers and wider Armed Forces community within your workforce. 

• The role of an Integrated Care Board (ICB) in supporting the Armed Forces Community.

Our keynote speaker was Shaun Pascoe, former nurse, RAF Veteran, CEO and founder of Turn to Starboard, a charity that uses sail training to help forces personnel overcome the physical and mental challenges of transition to civilian life.


Morning sessions

  • An introduction to the 5th annual NHS and Armed Forces conference. The event aimed to highlight the continued strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the NHS and the Armed Forces and features speeches from Ministers and senior leaders in both the NHS and the Armed Forces, as well as personal stories from members of the Armed Forces community.


    • Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive, NHS Employers 
    • The Rt Hon Dr. Andrew Murrison MP, Minister for Defence People and Families, Ministry of Defence
    • The Rt Hon. Andrew Stephenson CBE MP, Minister for Health and Social Care, Department of Health and Social Care
    • Air Marshal Clare Walton CB KHP, Defence General, Defence Medical Services
    • Kate Davies CBE, Director of Health and Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Referral Centres, NHS England
    • Craig de Sousa, Director of Workforce Supply, NHS England
    • Aaron Cooper, Senior Project Manager, United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust
    • Dominic Gething, OC 251 Med Sqn and Senior Paramedic, North West Ambulance Service
  • Break followed by breakout sessions.

Breakout sessions

  • The Career Transition Partnership, the Armed Forces Covenant Team and the Office for Veterans' Affairs each play an integral role in shaping the landscape for and supporting members of the Armed Forces community to access training and employment opportunities in the health and care sector.  

    By reducing disadvantage rather than creating advantage the benefits of recruiting from the Armed Forces community can be realised and the ambitions of long-term workforce plan and wider Government policy can be better supported.


    • Gp Capt Daren Moss, AHd Training, Education, Skills, Recruiting and Resettlement, MOD
    • Amanda Struby, Head, Armed Forces Covenant Team
  • The importance of being recognised as a forces friendly employer and supporting reservists in the workforce. 

    We discussed important topics including working alongside reservist units and how gaining board level commitment, offering a flexible HR policy, and developing communication and engagement networks, provides a better understanding of the positive impact of having reservists in your organisation. Also ensuring staff are aware of the transferrable benefits, to both the trust and the reservist, when military acquired skills are brought back into a civilians NHS career. 

    • Gemma Saunders, Derbyshire Healthcare NHSFT     
    • Prof. Joe Harrison, CEO, Milton Keynes University Hospital NHSFT     
    • Johanna Hrycak (JJ), Armed Forces Covenant Support Officer, Milton Keynes University Hospital NHSFT 
  • Break followed by breakout sessions.

  • Cadet Force Adult Volunteers form the backbone of uniformed cadet organisations. Unpaid and often utilising their personal leave, these volunteers support youngsters to gain valuable experience and develop transferable skills for the future; many of which prepare them for future employment. We listened about what they do and how NHS organisations are supporting them to do it.


    • Brigadier Anthony Lamb, Head of Youth & Cadets, MOD
    • Billy Kelly, Head of Armed Forces, Guys’ & St Thomas’ 
    • Suzanne Sweeney, Sea Cadet CFAV & Network Director, London Neonatal Ops Delivery Network
  • Discover more about reservists training and hear from members of the NHS and Armed Forces on how this directly benefits their role in the workplace through transferable skills such as decision making, communication skills, self-discipline, leadership and team building.


    • Sqn Ldr John Ellis, SO2 Coord (Reserves) Medical Force, Medical Reserves Support Cell, RAF Wittering
    • SLt Sophie Given, Clinical Lead, Royal Navy Reserves (QARNNS), University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHSFT
    • Sarah Jenkins, Assistant Director of Operations, University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHSFT 


  • Lunch break.

Afternoon Sessions

  • We joined Shaun Pascoe, founder of Turn to Starboard and Take Point, as he shares his lived experience of serving with the Medical Emergency Response Teams (MERT) in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hear how lessons learned from his service, having treated over 1,400 injured service personnel, continues to improve team working, trauma management and equipment procurement across the NHS today.

  • Break followed by breakout sessions.

Breakout sessions

  • Attendees discovered the inspiring stories of Armed Forces reservists who work in the NHS including how their training and experience in the military has successfully transferred to their roles in the NHS. Hearing about their experiences helped attendees to gain deeper appreciation of the unique skill set that these reservists bring to the NHS.


    • Maj Christine Duffy, ANP, ICU Nurse, Reservist-OC 222 Medical Squadron, Derbyshire Community Healthcare NHSFT 
    • Lt Emily Ashworth, Trauma Research Nurse and Royal Navy Reserve (Lt - QARNNS), Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
    • AS1 Keir Lynch, RAF Paramedic, 612 Sqn and Air Ambulance Paramedic for Scottish Ambulance Service
  • There's more to the NHS than clinicians! Attendees discovered the importance of non-clinical roles and the opportunities for members of the Armed Forces community within estates and facilities management including apprenticeships and continuous professional development.


    • Simon Corben, Head of Profession and Director of NHS Estates and Facilities, NHS England
    • James Lewis, Assistant Director Estates & Engineering, North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS FT
    • Tom Lappin, Assistant Head of Facilities, Nottingham University Hospital
  • Break followed by breakout sessions.

  • Defence Relationship Management joined us to tell us more about how they encourage employers to actively support defence and how signing the Armed Forces Covenant and receiving an Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) accreditation serves as public acknowledgement by the Ministry of Defence of an employer’s efforts to support the Armed Forces community.


    • Neil Jackson (Jacko), Director, Defence Relationship Management
  • NHS Digital and Cyber is a vital part of the health service, delivering innovative solutions and protecting patient data. Many staff within this field come from a military background, bringing valuable skills and experience. In this session, we heard from experts within the field and former Armed Forces colleagues and find out how they contribute to NHS Digital and Cyber.


    • Mark Dimock, Regional Cyber Security Lead (East), NHS England
    • Hubert T Ametefe, Head of Cyber Security, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
    • Kevin Nelson, EUC Support Analyst, NHS BSA
  • Break followed by mainstage session.


Afternoon mainstage session

  • Concentrating on the collaboration of the NHS and Defence to support the whole Armed Forces community within ICBs, learning from NHS Humber & North Yorkshire ICBs journey to becoming forces-friendly and what is next for them. We also heard from NHS Lincolnshire ICB on how they achieved silver ERS within just 12 months. Additionally, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust will showcase the success of their insight days, and how Armed Forces networks can support colleagues within the workforce. 


    • Kate Parkin, Director, Armed Forces Community, NHS Sussex and NHS Kent & Medway ICB
    • Luke Clifford-Roper-Smith, Senior Manager, Cultural Transformation & Armed Forces Lead, NHS Humber and North Yorkshire ICB
    • Jacqui Bunce, Programme Director, Strategic Partnerships, Planning & Estates, NHS Lincolnshire ICB
    • Steve Martin, Patient Safety Improvement Manager & Chairman Armed Forces Network, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust


  • Speaker

    • Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive, NHS Employers


The event was free to attend and open to all. If you signed up for the event, all sessions are available to view on the platform for 30 days via your invite link. 

Follow us on Twitter and join our Armed Forces mailing list to stay up to date with our work and future events. You can visit our supporting the Armed Forces community web page to learn more about the work of the Step into Health and supporting reservist programmes.