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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Army doctors 'lacked equipment'
By Ray Dunne
BBC News Online health staff in Llandudno

Specialist equipment was needed
Army doctors sent to the Gulf ahead of last year's war with Iraq lacked basic equipment, it has been claimed.

The British Medical Association's annual conference in Llandudno has been told they lacked chemical protection suits and surgical tools.

The claims were made by London GP Dr Kate Adams, who said she was speaking for doctors afraid to speak out.

The Ministry of Defence said some equipment did not get to the frontline but denied there were too few suits.

But Dr Adams insisted the army medics were left short.

"There are stories coming back from doctors who were in Iraq about the lack of equipment," she said.

"These are shocking stories," she said. "It's a scandal."

'Shocking stories'

Dr Adams said some doctors went without flak jackets and chemical protection suits.

"There weren't chemical protection suits available or chemical protection injector kits," she said.

Everybody had at least one protection suit
Ministry of Defence
Dr Adams told the conference that in one case doctors were forced to amputate a soldier's leg because of a lack of equipment.

"It was either amputate or bleed to death."

Dr Adams said the problems arose because the Ministry of Defence was unable to get the equipment to the front line.

"The equipment is good. The MoD just hadn't stockpiled it."

Dr John Ferguson, chairman of the BMA's armed forces, said more needs to be done to improve the defence medical services.

"We are working on a wing and a prayer," he said. "They are short of all the people they need to go to war."

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said it was crucial that army medics had the equipment they need.

"If we do not protect them, they cannot treat others," she said. "It's a double whammy."

The Ministry of Defence acknowledged there had been problems.

"We have admitted there were shortages," a spokeswoman told BBC News Online. "This was due to problems with the logistical infrastructure."

But she denied that medics were denied chemical protection suits.

"Everybody had at least one protection suit," she said. "If there are any new shortages that we have not been made aware of, then people should come forward."

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