NEWS

2012-04-16

Hero's sue hospital

HEROIC British soldiers wounded in the line of duty are suing a specialist military medical unit for negligence.

Thirteen brave serviceman injured fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have launched compensation claims against the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine in the last three years.

The specialist site cares for heroes airlifted home from the frontlines after they have sustained injuries.

And the unit, based at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, has won numerous awards for the work that is carried out there.

But it has been revealed that the group of soldiers is claiming they received below-par treatment and in some cases were misdiagnosed.

Legal experts said there was a gap between the world-class care frontline soldiers receive on the battlefield and the aftercare they get.

Clinical negligence specialist Philippa Tuckman, from Bolt Burdon Kemp solicitors, deals with clients who have been let down by the military after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

She said: “I think as far as Birmingham is concerned, there is a gap between the emergency care and what comes next.“ 

“The acute care is usually very good.

“The battlefield and emergency treatment is an example to others which has been picked up around the world.

“What they are not so good at is the general practice and the day to day less dramatic care, which is just as important.

“Often you have newly qualified military GPs who are not experienced at dealing with the full range of cases they are presented with, unlike an experienced GP.

“I have clients who say to me, `I assumed as a serviceman I would get the best care possible' and they are surprised when they don't.“

As well as physical injuries that have been misdiagnosed or mistreated, Ms Tuckman believes that the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is still causing huge problems.

“The biggest area relating to active service is psychiatric harm,“ she said. “Part of the deal for servicemen is going to warzones like Afghanistan, seeing horrors and having terrible experiences.

“In some ways PTSD is to be expected, but there are regulations which are supposed to look after you and make sure you aren't sent back while you are still vulnerable. We've got a number of cases where that simply hasn't happened.

“It can lead to depression and drinking. It really can snowball and become very serious if people are subjected to tour after tour of duty when suffering psychiatric problems.

“A better system is needed for dealing with the problem, particularly for helping those with PTSD who are medically discharged.“

Both the hospital and the Ministry of Defence declined to comment on individual cases.

But a ministry spokeswoman pointed out that a fund which could total hundreds of thousands of pounds over the lifetime of a serviceman was available for anyone injured on duty.