Letter published in The Times, 30 September 2015.
Sir, Help for Heroes has done superb work for our wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen. But reports (Sept 29) that its recovery facilities are underused are of concern and must be explained. The millions of pounds spent on them is a combination of public money and charitable funds, painstakingly raised by huge numbers of dedicated supporters, including many serving and retired members of the armed forces.
There is a strong case for retaining these facilities exclusively for military casualties, both serving and discharged. Those who are wounded in action have specific needs, beyond the strictly clinical. That was heartbreakingly demonstrated in the early days of Iraq and Afghanistan when military hospitals had all been closed, and wounded soldiers straight back from the combat zone were — to their great distress — lumped into crowded wards with civilian patients in an NHS hospital in Birmingham.
There are large numbers of severely wounded former soldiers out there who are neglected by an overburdened NHS that is not set up to understand them or to deal with their unique needs. Either these individuals must be more carefully matched up with Help for Heroes’ recovery facilities, or those facilities must be reshaped to meet the needs of the wounded more effectively.
Colonel Richard Kemp
Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan (2003)