SSAFA Armed Forces Charity Leaves Germany After 75 Years

Partner organisation Guy's and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust will also be leaving the country after 25 years.

Britain's oldest national tri-service military charity is leaving Germany after 75 years.

SSAFA dates back to 1885 and has supported military personnel and their families in the country since 1945.

Since 2013, the charity has had a partnership with Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, but the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will now take charge of healthcare for British forces in Germany.

David Williams, SSAFA's Director of Healthcare Services, said people known as 'SSAFA sisters' came to Germany to work with personnel who were establishing the British Army of the Rhine and "helping get Germany back on its feet after the Second World War".

The charity says it is proud of the 75 years of continuous service in north-west Europe.

"Certainly during the time of this current contract, over the last seven years, over a million people have come through our practices and been consulted and treated and managed," Mr Williams said.

"If you go back to 1945, goodness knows how many people we’ve been involved with and have benefitted."

The charity will leave the country after a dramatic reduction in the Army’s presence in the region, leading to less need for the MOD to have a healthcare service managed from Germany.

Now Colonel Bruce Baker, Senior Medical Officer Sennelager, will lead the medics running Sennelager’s Medical Centre.

And Col Baker says he doesn’t "think patients will find that much of a change".

Library image of SSAFA sister 300920 CREDIT SSAFA.jpg
The SSAFA sisters arrived in Germany in 1945 (Picture: SSAFA).

"The appointment system will be much the same, the hours of work will be the same and in the medical centre, apart from some military personnel, I don’t think they will find much of a difference," he said.

The biggest change will be in hospital care, which will now be arranged through Healix - an organisation that looks after British diplomats.

And the aim of the new system is to send the patients to the nearest and most appropriate hospital.

"If we get advice from a specialist that they think they need to go back to the UK, then that may be the nearest best hospital for them to go to," Col Baker said.

For the last 25 years, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust has been in partnership with SSAFA, providing healthcare to service communities in Germany, and also Belgium and the Netherlands, but the hospital trust is also leaving Germany. 

The partnership was a British first as no other healthcare service integrated primary, community and secondary care.

Military patients have also benefitted from the Trust's close relationship with overseas hospitals.

Brenda McLeod, of Guy's and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said clinicians from the Trust have met with their counterparts in various departments, as well as assisting exchange visits.

"We’ve had paediatricians going over to our kinderklinik," she said.

"We’ve had the general medicine clinicians sharing resources and ideas and that really has worked extremely well."

While the partnership is ending in Germany, SSAFA has just won a new four-year contract in Cyprus and retains staff around the world.