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Ex-servicemen: Health Services

Volume 493: debated on Monday 1 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effect on veterans of closures of dedicated military hospitals and wards for veterans. (277370)

The decision to close most of our military hospitals was taken over a decade ago, after it had become clear that they did not have a sufficient patient volume or range of military cases to develop and maintain the skills of our medical personnel.

On a typical day we have barely enough military inpatients, in all NHS hospitals across the UK, to fill two wards. This would be insufficient to sustain even a single, low-level civilian hospital and would require all patients to be brought together in one location, which in many cases would involve a major disruption for families and friends as well as for the patient. Meeting the health needs of veterans is the responsibility of the NHS and in the main their needs will reflect the health needs of the wider population. The same argument of not sending patients to a single dedicated hospital to keep it viable would apply equally to the national veteran patient population.

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee agreed with the policy finding:

“the arguments in favour of the closure of the stand-alone Service hospitals irresistible. We accept that the reduction in numbers of personnel which took place in the Armed Forces after the end of the Cold War meant that there was insufficient patient volume to make the military hospitals viable in the long term.”