The armed forces' medical services have been so badly depleted that Bupa is lecturing students at Sandhurst on the benefits of private medical insurance.

The armed forces have been hit by cuts to medical services so personnel are now being encouraged to pay for their own treatment. Recent statistics show almost 16,000 armed forces personnel are not fit for duty and, at the same time, the number of medical staff has fallen from 9,742 in 1988 to 6,909 in 2000.

All worldwide military hospitals have been closed in the last ten years in favour of military-managed district hospital units based in NHS hospitals.

Bupa has had an agreement with the Ministry of Defence for several years, to offer private healthcare to servicemen and women at a 45% discount.