Wounded soldiers sue military hospital for medical negligence after receiving ‘poor treatment’
In last three years, 13 injured soldiers sued alleging they received substandard care
Expert says soldiers get better treatment on the frontline than when they return home
By Tom Gardner
PUBLISHED: 18:57, 15 April 2012 | UPDATED: 18:58, 15 April 2012
When they signed up to risk life and limb for their country, they expected in return to receive a decent level of care if they were wounded.
But new figures have revealed troops returning injured from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq are suing a specialist hospital for medical negligence.
Over the past three years, 13 soldiers have launched compensation claims against the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital.
The site cares for heroes airlifted home from the frontline and has won a string of awards for its work.
But details released under the Freedom of Information Act show soldiers taking legal action after claiming to have received poor treatment.
And experts say there is a gap between the world-class care frontline soldiers receive on the battlefield and the aftercare they receive when they are repatriated.
Clinical negligence specialist Philippa Tuckman 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.’
University Hospital of Birmingham NHS Trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, refused to comment on matters involving military patients.
As well as physical injuries that have been misdiagnosed or mistreated, Ms Tuckman believes the devastating impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is still being overlooked, with sufferers being sent back to the frontline.
‘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.
Corporal Scott Garthley suffered multiple injuries when he was blown up by a Scud missile in Kuwait
‘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.’
The Ministry of Defence refused to go into any detail on any of the medical negligence claims.
But a spokesman 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.
In 2008 wounded ex-serviceman Scott Garthley, from Northampton, fought a £2.8million compensation battle with the MoD claiming he had been the victim of negligent treatment.
He claimed he had to pay more than £60,000 in private hospital bills just to ensure he received the vital care not offered to him by the MoD.
Mr Garthley was also ordered to take off his uniform at Selly Oak hospital – then home of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine – in case it offended ethnic minority patients, sparking national outrage.