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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK
'No complacency' on military care
UK soldiers in Afghanistan
Medical care by the armed forces and NHS were both defended
The government has denied "complacency" over medical care for the armed forces and that standards had fallen.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram angrily denied the claims by Tory Andrew Murrison in a Commons debate.

Mr Ingram said "excellent treatment" was given and critics did a "huge discredit" to the armed forces and NHS.

And the head of a Birmingham hospital treating injured soldiers told MPs conducting an inquiry that a "negative press campaign" had demoralised staff.

Julie Moore spoke to MPs carrying out an inquiry into military medical care as they visited Selly Oak Hospital where service personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated.

'Frontline perception'

The Commons row erupted during a debate on the armed forces. Dr Murrison, a Royal Navy Reserve member who served in Iraq in 2003, told Mr Ingram: "You talk of your commitment to our troops in action.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram
Can it be improved? Yes, it can and we won't stint in doing so
Adam Ingram
Armed Forces Minister

"Clearly from the front line the perception is very different indeed and I'm surprised at your complacency."

Mr Ingram responded: "Criticisms have been made. Those criticisms now have to be addressed. If they stack up, we will have to find answers.

"But we aren't complacent. The overall quality of care, both in theatre and when they return home, is of the very highest standard.

"Can it be improved? Yes, it can and we won't stint in doing so."

Mr Ingram also denied allegations that standards of theatre care were worse now than 40 years ago.

"The standard of today's medical service is vastly better than what was provided in the Falklands War, let alone the Vietnam war," he said.

He added that casualties now survived injuries that would "certainly have killed them 40 years ago".

At Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital, Commons Defence Committee members spoke to patients, NHS chiefs and representatives.

The small stories and the urban myths have spread while the good stories that have been well reported have not
Julie Moore
Selly Oak head

The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine is based at the hospital which is also setting up a 12-bed military-managed ward following criticism of soldiers being treated alongside civilians.

Ms Moore accused the media of peddling "urban myths" about the treatment of soldiers at Selly Oak.

She said inquiries had found no evidence to substantiate claims that an injured paratrooper was "accosted" by a Muslim at Selly Oak and another soldier told to remove his "offensive" uniform.

Ms Moore, chief executive of University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said staff had "become extra vigilant" to make sure reporters were not posing as soldiers' relatives to gain access to the hospital.

"The small stories and the urban myths have spread while the good stories that have been well reported have not, " she said.

"The time taken to deal with this has been quite considerable."

She added: "We have done some world-first surgery at the hospital and we worked very hard to publicise that but it wasn't picked up as much as some of the stories that did the rounds."

The Commons Defence Committee inquiry, which follows criticism of the care and support given to wounded personnel in some areas, is expected to publish its recommendations later this year.

Hospitals fit for heroes?
21 Mar 07 |  UK

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