Leading professors in orthopaedics and psychology say the UK’s healthcare system is not providing military personnel and veterans with the healthcare they have been promised, and calls for the government to improve their treatment of injured soldiers.
The Armed Forces Covenant, described as a duty of care to the armed forces, has said that veterans should be sustained and rewarded for their service, with a Military Of Defence spokesman saying it was “fully committed” to the covenant. However Professor Neil Greenberg from the Royal College of Psychiatrists said he believed ministers were failing to honour the military covenant promise and that the government needs to deliver more in terms of healthcare for military personnel.
Military charity Help For Heroes have obtained figures via a Freedom of Information act which shows almost 13,000 service personnel have been medically discharged for musculoskeletal disorders since 2001, which includes those who have problems with joints and ligaments or who have lost limbs in the line of duty, but many still require constant care throughout their lives.
Inez Brown, partner at the Medical Accident Group said: “The current military covenant states that solider could be called upon to make the “ultimate sacrifice” for their country so that in return they and their families will be rewarded for their military service, but once a veteran leaves the forces, their healthcare is the responsibility of the NHS. This means that many military personnel could be left behind in terms of the healthcare that they receive with a risk that they might receive poor or substandard care. The moral obligation to treat veterans should not stop when their service ends, and they should receive priority healthcare from the NHS if they are treated for a condition that stems from their time in the armed forces. However it is really unfortunate that timely healthcare is not offered to all.”
The main principles of the military covenant were enshrined in law in the Armed Forces Act 2011, and the defence secretary must report back annually on progress made by ministers in honouring it. Additionally Help For Heroes has estimated that 75,000 service personnel could suffer physically and mentally as a result of being deployed to war zone regions such as Afghanistan.
NHS staff are often not aware of the covenant, and veterans often don’t tell their doctors about their military past so Help For Heroes has said a government database would help to make sure that veterans receive the care they are entitled to.
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