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Hospital Facilities

Volume 451: debated on Monday 30 October 2006

By the end of this year, there will be a military managed ward at Selly Oak hospital. It will provide an enhanced military care environment for patients returning from an operational theatre, if it is clinically appropriate for them to be brought together in one ward. There has also been an increase in military nurse numbers at Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham, which is the primary reception hospital for operation casualties.

What thought has gone into the provision of the best possible trauma care for our servicemen and women?

Decades of thought have gone into providing the best possible trauma care for our injured servicemen and women. Indeed, the previous Government started the process when they sought to close our military hospitals. As the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) said when he visited Selly Oak on 25 October 2006:

“you cannot keep a military hospital open with that level of throughput”

that those military hospitals have.

I see that the hon. Gentleman assents. He has been trying to explain that across the country for some time, and I welcome his support. The way to improve care for trauma victims is to ensure that they are treated in theatre, in the best possible hospitals. We do that by providing them with world-class hospitals there and by ensuring that they are treated in world-class hospitals when they return. We have chosen to centre our care for those people in Selly Oak hospital in the west midlands because it is a world-renowned centre of trauma care.

The House is aware that a decreasing number of hon. Members have had any meaningful experience of the armed services. I regret that, and I certainly commend the armed forces parliamentary scheme. Does the Secretary of State accept that those of us who have had some experience and have benefited from British military hospitals, which have been centres of excellence, are deeply concerned—nay, angry—at the way in which we have provided medical services for those wounded while fighting for this country, and for peace and freedom in various parts of the world? I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) that I regret the closure of British military hospitals, because we need to treat our soldiers in special places, where they can be with their colleagues, as that is helpful to their recovery.

The hon. Gentleman’s last point was his most important point, and that is indeed why we are moving towards a military managed ward. If necessary—if the numbers justify it—we will move beyond that to military managed wards, to provide an appropriate environment for those who are recovering. However, I will do some research to ascertain whether, when the process of closing the hospitals was embarked on, he was just as vociferous from the Back Benches. [Hon. Members: “He was.”] I am sure that he was, but I suspect that his was, if not a lone voice, a very lonely voice. I say to him, with respect, that on many occasions he may be a lonely voice but a right voice, but on this occasion he is a lonely voice but a wrong voice. In terms of clinical governance and proper support for our troops, those military hospitals would not have provided the level of care that we want for those who are prepared to make the sacrifices that our troops are prepared to make.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his commitment to the provision of a military managed ward within the excellent care of the NHS. Our hard-working NHS doctors and nurses do not just operate here in the UK, but risk their lives in theatre as reservists and members of the Territorial Army. Does he agree that to denigrate NHS care for military personnel, as several Opposition Members have done, is an insult—

My hon. Friend makes a good point about the level of care that is being received by our forces in theatre. Last week, when I was in Helmand province, at Camp Bastion, I visited the military hospital in theatre. It is excellent and is excellently staffed by people of the highest calibre. Opposition Members have to square the circle with the people of this country when their leader suggests that his policy can be summed up in the word, “NHS”—

Order. I hope that we can at least manage to get to Question 10. We will have to step the pace up. I want to hear how the Grenadier Guards are getting on.