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Hospital Facilities

Volume 451: debated on Monday 30 October 2006

9. What plans he has for hospital treatment of injured service personnel; and if he will make a statement. (97417)

While on operational deployment, service personnel receive excellent medical care in field hospitals and other deployed medical facilities. In Afghanistan, we are upgrading the hospital facility and we already have an upgraded facility in Iraq. In addition, the £690 million Birmingham new hospital project will see our military casualties being treated in the largest and most modern critical care unit in Europe, as well as offering our medical personnel excellent training and research facilities.

With Defence Medical Services standing at only 50 per cent. of its target staffing level, what can the Secretary of State do to reassure us that he is trying to increase the number of staff?

The hon. Gentleman identifies a challenge that we face. In response, we have to offer those who wish to practise medicine in the armed forces the best possible environment in which to do so, with the promise that they will be able to train and build their skills in a way that will allow them to advance in the profession. The investment that I outlined in the hospital that is presently called Selly Oak will provide that environment.

While I will not accept any criticism of the quality of medical treatment that our servicemen and women receive from the NHS when they return injured, may I suggest to the Secretary of State that sometimes when our soldiers are treated in mixed wards, some of their special needs, such as where to store their kit bags and how they access visitors, are not quite understood? Further talks might be beneficial so that the two services understand each other better.

I have been to Selly Oak hospital, which has been the focus of all this attention, twice in the past six weeks. I spoke at length to patients on both occasions, and the group of patients whom I met only a couple of weeks ago were unstinting in their praise of the care that they received in the hospital. I will bow to no one in defending that hospital, which is providing the highest level of care. Of course, we can always improve our ability to generate the environment in which to recover that will be the best for those for whom we care. We will continually examine the situation, including the points that my hon. Friend raises.