Transcript of DefCom 1st session on Armed Forces Med Care

The first evidence session on Medical Care for the Armed Forces was held on Tuesday 12 June.

The uncorrected transcript is now available - you can read it HERE

Q4 Mr Holloway: Do families not get rail warrants to visit injured soldiers?

Mrs Sheldon: They do. There are regulations which give help with transport and accommodation for seven days when the patient is either seriously ill or very seriously ill. Once the patient moves off that list public funding stops. One can imagine that it is very difficult for families travelling from one end of the country to the other, or from overseas, to visit patients. One has foreign and commonwealth families. Fijian and South African families come over and suddenly find themselves stranded in the UK because funding has stopped. That is where the charities are stepping in because public funding has stopped.

Air Commodore Jarron: I agree with the broad point that in order to provide the level of medical expertise that is required for battle casualties being part of a teaching hospital is the way to go. I do not think any of us would disagree with that. In terms of support for families, the Royal Air Force Association is at the beginning of that process. We have been largely a veterans organisations and we are now focusing far more on current Royal Air Force support. Like The Royal British Legion, we are looking at ways to support people who often have been hauled off the battlefield, treated in theatre and then sent straight back. Little items like toiletry packs are things that we are starting to put in place.

Ms Crane: As to travel, the travel allowance that is given to families is supposedly for seven days initially. It can be and frequently is extended. It applies when someone is seriously or very seriously ill and once the individual is no longer on that list the amount of travel assistance available reduces.

Q5 Mr Crausby: Therefore, it relates to serious illness, not the seven days?[/b]
Ms Crane: The amount of travel assistance for families applies whilst service personnel are seriously ill or very seriously ill.

Q6 Mr Holloway: If someone who has not seen his family for ages gets hurt in Afghanistan and may die assistance is available for seven days, but if he gets better and is there for a month or two and is not in danger the family end up paying for it?

Ms Crane: Yes.

Q7 Mr Holloway: That is incredible, and it should be all over the press.
We've also put a link in the 'Useful Information' section of the BFBS Reports website so that Forces personnel can submit their experiences of medical care to the DefCom - I'm sure you'll agree it's important for them to hear as many real experinces as possible



Book Reviewer
Rock thanks for the link - v.useful

Some sensible stuff buried in there so let's not be overly selective with the quotes:

Mr Jenkins: What concerns me and I believe one or two other Members of the Committee is the constant media coverage. Disgraceful stories have been run. When probed it has been found that the situation described has not happened and does not exist. It has a demoralising effect on the staff at Selly Oak. The NHS does not want the press to be critical of it. We have to fight our own media to get the truth out. Are these stories in accordance with what you have heard? How do some of these stories affect you as individual organisations?

Ms Freeth*: I should like to encourage more openness and transparency about when these reported incidents come to light. We know that they are investigated. I think there needs to be more openness about what comes out of those investigations, namely that when there are mistakes we are told what has been done about them and, when they have been looked at and found to be erroneous, we make sure that it is better understood. As organisations we are trying very hard to educate our own membership and the people with whom we have contact to make sure that the true story is told, but individuals and the press are particularly keen to highlight failures in this area. In the past 12 months a number of us who have talked to the press have tried to focus their attention on other areas where we believe there are difficulties. They have been much less interested in drawing attention to that, which is disappointing.

Q28 Mr Jenkins: Therefore, when "The Daily Blurb" runs a story about a soldier being insulted and it is found to be fabricated and has no essence of truth do you believe that its front page story the following day will be "Sorry, we got it wrong. We lied to you again"? Do you think that will ever happen?

Ms Crane: No. In April we conducted a short-term survey asking families their views of the provision for wounded soldiers. The vast majority were concerned but 71 per cent said that their concern came from media reporting. That gives us a very graphic explanation.

Q29 Mr Jenkins: That is the struggle. We have to get it over on our website that people who complain about Selly Oak have never been there; they have read about it in the media. Imagine the effect that has on the families of injured personnel. There is a slanted story in the media. With the best will in the world, how do we overturn it? We conduct an inquiry and say that the story is untrue. That is not printed.
* Sue Freeth, Director of Welfare Royal British Legion

She also penned a very good , fair , balanced article in Summer 2007 issue of RBL's newsletter on this. Unfortunately I can't find it online or I would give a link.

This passage is also very illuminating:

Q46 Chairman: Could that be split into two questions? The first question is: was it the right decision to go to Selly Oak with the gloss of military-managed units? The second question is: what lessons should we have learnt from it? First, was it the right decision?

Mrs Sheldon: I do not think it was the right decision at the time because nobody could foresee or build into the planning assumption the number of operations that would be carried out. Let us not forget that Selly Oak started off as a teaching hospital for military medics. They have worked very hard to improve it. That was a big mistake, but the good thing is that the clinical resources are now centred on the need. That is the right decision but it has come about in an unfortunate way.

Q47 Chairman: It was a wrong decision but it should not now be overturned?

Mrs Sheldon: Yes, absolutely.

Ms Freeth: I believe that it is the right way to go. We do not have access to all the figures. Will one centre there be enough?

Air Commodore Jarron+: Clinically and financially, it is very hard to criticise the decision to go there. There is a big emotional issue here. Servicemen like their own things; they love their own regiments and comradeship is very much part of what service is about. Interestingly, at this year's annual conference there was a resolution moved by a veteran that we should approach government to re?establish our military hospitals in support of our men. It failed because practical arguments were put forward. Nevertheless, there is a very big issue about the emotional wellbeing of these people. It is exactly the right business decision, but what we have to do is make sure that we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater and lose the emotional support that is so important.

Commodore Elliott:# We are rather too far down track to go back. I think we have shut the last military hospital. It is interesting that we are about the only country in the western world that has a system where we rely on the NHS to look after our servicemen and women and veterans. The alternative model seems very attractive to me because you end up with a quasi-military environment which is so good for both in-service people and veterans who in the old days went into the military hospitals when there was enough room for them. They gained a huge amount from that. That is not available to us. I suspect that if we look back at what happened over the past couple of years at Selly Oak we were caught out, but I believe that this is a question for the surgeon general and defence medical services rather than us. We have gone forward quite a bit since being caught out, and from what I have been told I am quite convinced that Selly Oak will be good news in future.

Ms Crane: I agree with what Ms Sheldon said earlier, but this goes wider than just the treatment of those who suffer wounds from operations. A big complaint that comes in all the time is access to medical care for those now serving in the Army who need minor operations to get fit to go back on exercise. That is where the draw-down of the military hospitals is having greatest impact. That applies also to those who are discharged from Selly Oak having had a high level of clinical care and need somewhere to convalesce before they can go on to Headley Court
* Liz Sheldon,Project Manager, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).
+ Air Cdre Edward Jarron, Secretary-General, Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA)
#Commodore Toby Elliott RN, Chief Executive, Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society (Combat Stress),

I know that some of these views will go against the grain of what a lot of people on this Board have been pushing for. But nontheless, these witnesses are at the very heart of the non-Service provision of welfare to our people - they have come to their opinions after long exposure to the issues.

FWIW, anyway. Good post Rockape. More to follow I guess ?

Le Chevre
Hope so Goatman.
my initial post was purposely selective in an attempt to wake up some who moan about conditions on on this forum thus encouraging them to post somewhere (for example the DefCom Inquiry site) where their opinions might do some good.

Many would do well to read the TRANSCRIPT of the DefCom session.

I felt it might inform their future postings to the inquiry, which I have been informed by Mr Arbuthnot's office, may be submitted by email/fax or in writing IF THEY HAVE A PROBLEM REGISTERING AT THE DEFCOM SITE as follows:

Fax 020 7219 6952

E-Mail (subject: DefCom Inquiry into Medical Care for the Armed Forces)

write to:
Defence Committee
(Re: Medical Care for the Armed Forces)
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA

edited to add:
There is a free fax facility HERE


Book Reviewer
Fair go.

by the way, Cdre Toby is wrong when he says 'I think we have shut the last military hospital'

Firstly, Royal Hospital Haslar was indeed decommissioned as a military unit in March this year but remains very much in business.

Haslar continues to serve both Service and civilian patients through the skills of of upwards of 100 military staff - doctors, nurses , radiographers and other specialists - who are stiil on site. This will continue until the local NHS health authority say they don't require it anymore, which on current planning is 2009/10 when the new PFI build at Queen Alexandra Hospital Cosham comes on line. Crossed fingers all round.

Secondly, both BMH Cyprus and BMH Gibraltar are still going strong and I have recently seen the Med Fac at Camp Bastion being referred to as BMH Helmand.

[I would readily concede that not many Uk based or ex- Service personnel waiting for a hip replacement may be too keen to visit the latter for treatment]

watch and shoot, watch and shoot.

Le Chevre
Cdre Toby and Goatman have also forgotten the Duke of Connaught Unit in Belfast.

It may not be big, it may not be fashionable (otherwise Mrs Dannatt and the rest of the twinset and pearls welfare experts would doubtless have been to visit), but it is still a military hospital.

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