Indie: Military Covenant, demand for dedicated mil hospital

Our boys deserve better than this: Families demand a dedicated military hospital

Serving soldiers, their relatives and retired generals are among 30,000 people who signed a petition calling for action on casualties as the argument over honouring the Military Covenant, first reported by this paper, rages on.
By Andrew Johnson
Published: 26 August 2007

The Government faces an unprecedented revolt among rank and file soldiers, hundreds of whom have signed a petition along with more than 30,000 mothers, friends and families, calling for a dedicated military hospital.

As the Royal Anglian Regiment mourns three more victims of the war in Afghanistan, and another two soldiers injured in the same friendly-fire incident last week are preparing to fly home for treatment on the NHS, families, soldiers and top brass are becoming increasingly angry at the lack of specialist care.

They argue that the Military Covenant, a unique agreement between soldiers and the Government that they risk their lives in return for fair and decent treatment, is not being honoured...
Army blogging sites are also alive with criticism. One soldier writes: "Squaddies have a language and terminology of their own and a totally different sense of humour and perspective on life; civvies that have never served just don't understand it and that's why the guys need to have their own dedicated hospital."

This is why a growing campaign has been joined by the British Legion as well as the Conservative party leader David Cameron in calling for the Covenant to be honoured...
The MoD says that the number of wounded soldiers does not justify the cost of a specialist hospital, but there are as many beds in the NHS as soldiers who need them for as long as they need them. When they are evacuated to the UK they are taken to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, where there are just 14 designated military beds. These are at the end of a public ward which is curtained off from civilians. If more than 14 soldiers need treatment, however, they are put on public wards. If fewer, then a civilian may take the spare bed. If the soldiers are transferred to a specialist burns or neurological hospital, they will be on pubic wards.

It is also treating soldiers with PTSD at the Priory Clinic.

An MoD spokesman said that soldiers were still given priority after their army discharge.

Attitudes are very different in America. Sergeant Major Andrew Stockton recalls being part of a parade of veterans in New York recently, and the very different public attitude towards the fighting men, regardless of the politics of the war.

On the opposite carriageway New Yorkers stopped their cars and got out and cheered. The city's police and firemen lined the route, saluting the injured soldiers. For the half-dozen British military amputees among them – more used to being the hidden victims of the conflicts – it was a deeply emotional moment.
Major General Julian Thompson said: "I've signed the petition. Just planting them around the country is not good enough in my opinion. Part of the covenant is that they will be looked after. And that is not being fulfilled."

Former head of the army, Field Marshall the Lord Bramall, added: "Their actual treatment by doctors and nurses at Selly Oak is pretty good. But when they get discharged they go out and get in the NHS and that's when they get lost in the system. This has been a shambles. It's an absolute disgrace."
Additional reporting by Terri Judd and Leonard Doyle

Full story from the Sunday Independent at LINK. There is also a linked editorial.

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