Thousands of British soldiers who suffered horrific injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are being denied access to a brand new £350 million military hospital following a dispute between Government departments over who would foot the bill for their care there.
Wounded former troops who lost legs and arms in battle are being forced to join lengthy NHS waiting lists because they are barred from the world-leading Defence National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC).
Currently only serving personnel are being cared for at the huge state-of-the-art facility, which was opened by Prince William.
The centre, which has 244 beds, is four times bigger than the military hospital it replaced.
Last night, father-of-two Craig Gadd, a former sergeant in the Royal Engineers, described how he has to hobble back and forth to his local hospital where ‘inexperienced’ prosthetics specialists try and fail to fit a new socket for his artificial left leg
Currently only serving personnel are being cared for at the world-leading Defence National Rehabilitation Centre, which was opened by Prince William
But because Britain is no longer fighting two major conflicts, its expensively built hydro-pools, high-tech gyms for disabled soldiers and a £1 million gait-analysis centre for troops learning to walk again are being underused, according to military sources.
Meanwhile, thousands of former servicemen and women are being prevented from using these facilities due to a funding row between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and NHS England – which is responsible for the provision of healthcare to veterans.
Last night General the Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, said the Government was ‘morally wrong’ to prevent those medically discharged from the Armed Forces from using the centre – particularly when the purpose-built facility is understood to be operating far below its capacity.
The DNRC was built on the 360-acre site of Stanford Hall, a Grade-II listed stately home in rural Nottinghamshire and was opened last year by the Duke of Cambridge.
Since then only 12 wounded ex-troops have been treated there, while a defence source who recently visited the centre told The Mail on Sunday last night the hospital, often referred to as Stanford Hall, was ‘almost empty’.
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood has insisted the NHS must pay for ex-soldiers to visit the centre. But last night the Government’s stance came under fire from veterans’ charities and disabled former troops.
The 46-year-old from Hull was blown up by an improvised explosive device (IED) while searching a Taliban compound in Helmand province in 2010
Lord Dannatt said: ‘I am very disappointed to learn that access to the DNRC is being denied to veteran amputee servicemen and women, some of whom took part in the fundraising campaign.
‘Denying them access seems morally wrong so I am very glad that Help for Heroes and other charities are pushing hard on this issue.
‘Why does it take so much effort and argument every time to get the Government to do the right thing?’
Last night, disabled troops described how they are forced to rely on inferior standards of healthcare on the NHS because staff at their local hospitals do not have enough expertise or experience of treating amputees.
Their harrowing anecdotal accounts are backed up by official reports into the NHS’s treatment of veterans.
These surveys have highlighted variable standards of care across the country, issues faced by injured personnel in accessing rehabilitation services and evidence that some NHS providers are unable to treat complex problems involving amputees.
Last night, father-of-two Craig Gadd, a former sergeant in the Royal Engineers, described how he has to hobble back and forth to his local hospital where ‘inexperienced’ prosthetics specialists try and fail to fit a new socket for his artificial left leg.
Wounded former troops who lost legs and arms in battle are being forced to join lengthy NHS waiting lists because they are barred from the world-leading Defence National Rehabilitation Centre (pictured)
The 46-year-old from Hull was blown up by an improvised explosive device (IED) while searching a Taliban compound in Helmand province in 2010.
Such devices were the enemy’s most effective weapon against British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to official figures, IEDs account for 70 per cent of the 2,792 UK casualties in both warzones.
Sgt Gadd fears he could lose his job as a building contracts manager because he is taking so much time off work to attend medical appointments which he says are not achieving anything.
He said: ‘I’m in constant pain because the socket on my artificial leg doesn’t fit properly.
‘I’ve had so many fittings on the NHS but they can’t get it right – their prosthetists simply don’t have the same experience as the amputee specialists employed by the MoD.
‘Most of the people getting artificial legs on the NHS near me are pensioners who just need to get around the house.
‘I need to work on building sites, so my prosthetic has to be a perfect, pain-free fit. I’m now worried about my job because of the time I’m having off to go for repeated fittings. I need expert medical attention now to get this right.
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood has insisted the NHS must pay for ex-soldiers to visit the centre
‘The standard of physiotherapy on the NHS just isn’t good enough either and there’s no joined-up thinking.
‘The benefit of Stanford Hall is that all the facilities and treatment programmes are under the same roof.
‘Surely it’s a no-brainer that amputees and other casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan who would benefit from attending Stanford Hall are able to do so – especially as there is surplus capacity?
‘Very few troops are getting wounded on any battlefields at the moment, so it could be done, they’ve got the space, its a huge site with some amazing kit.’
Sgt Gadd also explained how for ex-squaddies to be sent to Stanford Hall for treatment they must first be referred to the NHS’s veterans prosthetics panel, which can allocate additional funding for troops with complex fitting issues.
Advances in modern medical technology meant troops who suffered horrendous injuries in warzones survived (Commando Royal Marines pictured in Helmand Province, Afghanistan)
He added: ‘To date the panel has only authorised 12 veterans with prosthetics problems to receive additional treatment at the DNRC. Obviously this needs to happen in a larger number of cases. Perhaps the NHS sees referring veterans to the DNRC as a failure on its part.’
Advances in modern medical technology meant troops who suffered horrendous injuries in warzones survived.
These servicemen and women were later discharged from the UK’s Armed Forces, at which point responsibility for the healthcare needs passed to the already over-burdened NHS.
While veterans are entitled to priority access to NHS treatments for any service-related issues, they cannot jump the queue ahead of people with more acute conditions.
The severity of injuries suffered by so many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan inspired the late Duke of Westminster to campaign for a specialist hospital to be built for them.
The Duke, a former Territorial Army officer, envisaged a luxurious facility where troops would be inspired to recover.
A British Army Officer from 1st Battalion Princess of Wales Royal Regiment walks towards British Army and Afghan National Civil Police in Afghanistan
In an interview before his death he said: ‘I wanted a soldier who was born and bred in Toxteth, the lower Clyde or central Birmingham to arrive there and say, ‘Wow, somebody is really going to look after me here.’
The billionaire Duke, who owned 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia, contributed £70 million towards the DNRC and raised the remainder of the hospital’s start-up costs through fundraising.
He also hoped that serving soldiers and veterans would be treated alongside each other – an aspiration borne out by a statement on the DNRC’s website that it helps individuals ‘returning to military service or transitioning to civilian life’.
Lord Dannatt’s calls for wounded veterans to use Stanford Hall were backed last night by Help For Heroes.
The charity’s chief executive, Melanie Waters, said: ‘Some veterans will need rehabilitation for many years to come.
‘The support offered at the DNRC is second to none. After giving so much to their country, many veterans feel let down at being excluded. They are not really interested in policies and budgets, and while the Government is working out which department will pay the bill for the best care, the people who matter most are missing out.’
Her concerns were echoed last night by another military charity, Walking With The Wounded, which arranges expeditions for injured veterans.
Its chief executive, Edward Parker, said: ‘While the DNRC is exactly the sort of development in care which we would expect for our servicemen and women, I would question the exclusion of veterans from receiving care at this new, state-of-the-art facility.’
Last night the MoD said no figures were available for how many serving personnel have used the DNRC. The MoD also refused to confirm how many medical staff are employed at Stanford Hall or the hospital’s running costs – which must be picked up by taxpayers.
Without an agreement between the MoD and NHS England over who should pay for wounded veterans to be treated at Stanford Hall they face a wait of several years before being let in.
Last year the Government pledged £70 million for a civilian hospital wing to be built on the same site. But the project remains at the planning stage.
The MoD said: ‘While Stanford Hall’s primary purpose is to treat injured military personnel, former service personnel can be referred to the facility by the NHS.’
Last night NHS England said that it offered a full care package for veterans.