Sunday, 22 March 2009

Military Hospitals

With the abject failure this government has provided for the armed forces in the form of the broken Military Covenant, Chinooks, Vectors Vehicles, Snatch Land Rovers, Airbus A400M, Jackal, Pinzgauer High Mobility All-Terrain Vehicle, The Viking and many many others - all this coming from a nation who once upon a time was extremely proud of its military engineering. It all became politicised a long time ago sadly.

If they are going to politicise the procurement of military hardware to the detriment of serving personnel then surely, one would have thought (grown out of common sense), they would have provided space and care for the injured soldiers (the dead ones are another matter) when they came back to the UK, there are roughly 150 or so injured soldiers arriving to Selly Oak in Birmingham each month and they have 14 beds.

Normally the ills and evils and mischief and malaise of this decade have been born out of the political tragedy that is New Labour. But the failure of the care for military personnel is, believe it or not, not one of their many many misdeeds.
Seven of the eight military hospitals have closed since a Tory government review in the early 1990s and the last in Haslar, Hants, will shut this year. Now of course since a British government is not bound by the decisions of a previous government they could have overturned these decisions taken by Major and Co. They did not, well it is at least good to know that Labour are not being hypocritical in their stance towards the armed forces; they truly could not care less.

What happened in the early 90's then you might wonder, why were the Tories so rash in their decisions to close down the military hospitals and shrink the size of the defence medical services? Well certainly the Cold War was at its end and subsequently it was assumed that all the evils of the world had gone away with the Soviet autocracy. Perhaps they thought Perestroika and Glasnost meant Peace and Prosperity to the western world?

Down to business then, the Defence review called in 1990 -one year after the wall fell- was aptly named "Options for change" (change has become the new synonym for 'completely shatter what is working and replace with something completely unfit for purpose'). The reason given for closing these sometimes two centuries old units was that servicemen could be better cared for by civilian NHS personal with their specialist equipment and specialist personnel, apparently. Yes the NHS is certainly specialist in one thing and that is complete and utter mismanagement.

These are the wards that have closed:

1. Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot (formerly Army hospital), closed in 1996.

2. Princess Mary’s Hospital, Halton, Bucks (formerly RAF), closed in 1996.

3. Duchess of Kent’s Military Hospital Catterick (formerly Army, closed in 1999.

4. Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital, Woolwich (formerly Army), closed in 1996.

5. Princess Alexandra Hospital, Wroughton, Swindon (formerly RAF), closed in 1995.

6. Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse (formerly Royal Navy), closed in 1995.

7. Princess of Wales Hospital, Ely (formerly RAF), closed in 1992.

(ohh did I mention that they were closed because the Tories wanted to save £500 million over 10 years - we now have a gaping hole in the defence budget of over £2 billion. I am glad it all worked out for them.)

As you might have imagined the utter folly of this decision has had dire consequences for servicemen around the world since there is just not enough place for them all. The decision was taken so that the government could save money and undoubtedly spend it on something else which would benefit themselves rather than the people - this seems to have been the general trend since Heath, I wanted to say Atlee but he did provide for free universal education which is always useful. Not even Sir Mike, the former head of the Army, though this was a good idea - he was terribly accommodating when it came to giving away British armed forces to the EU but that is another story.

A group of people (well, all 113,973 of them) petitioned the Prime Minister to Create a dedicated Military & Veterans Hospital within the UK.

What was the response? (well what do you think...)

I shall provide two for your:

In a blatant lie

"MILITARY top brass have snubbed calls for a hospital dedicated to Britain’s Armed Forces and veterans, the Daily Express can reveal today.
In a pointed rebuff to UK troops, they insist current NHS provision is adequate and defiantly refuse to see the need for a specialist military medical unit.
The Army’s most senior medical officer has said the case is now closed and he is not willing to discuss the issue any further."

Nr. 10 was not much better:

"In terms of providing a dedicated hospital for veterans, it is worth noting that since 1948 it has been the policy of successive Governments that the NHS should be the main provider of health care for veterans. The range of general medical treatment required by veterans is in most cases no different from other civilians, and it would be wrong to expect them to travel large distances to receive treatment at a single hospital, especially when excellent care is already provided closer to their home and families."

Gordon.. just because successive governments have indulged in the same idea does not mean it is a good idea. As for the medical officer well he seems like a delightful fellow clearly the man the squaddies should talk to when they come back from operations (which are set to get worse this year) with their gun in one hand and their leg in the other, and cannot get appropriate treatment but have to be heckled by not-so-intelligent members of the Muslim community who cannot see the difference between the the decision makers (those who started the war) and those who are only following orders.

The Tories running slogan today is "time for change" and on their webpage they claim they will "will repair the broken Military Covenant, respect our Armed Forces, and ensure that Forces’ families and veterans are taken care of". If they plan on staying more than four year I do hope that they reconsider their early mistake of the 90's or they might just find themselves without its armed forces when the going gets tough on the streets.

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