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Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM), Selly Oak

I have been a strong supporter of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine RCDM being located at Selly Oak and look forward to the Centre being able to provide even better conditions for our troops when our new hospital opens in 2010.

I am posting up the following information as there has been a great deal of press attention on the RCDM, most of it ill-informed and inaccurate.  This includes an article in the 10 June edition of the Mail on Sunday which completely distorted the views I expressed in a lengthy telephone conversation with the journalist responsible.  As a result I have received a large number of emails and letters from members of the public and the armed forces, some understandably upset given the slanted article, others abusive[1].   I have also received emails from soldiers who are horrified at the rascist abuse that has been sent to me [2].

The Defence Select Committee is currently carrying out an inquiry into medical care for the armed forces and will be taking evidence in Birmingham.   I hope this will be an opportunity to correct the false impression of services at Selly Oak that are being propagated by inaccurate stories such as that in the Mail on Sunday.  The record of the Defence Select Committee evidence sessions, including that taken of the evidence given by representatives from University Hospital Foundation Trust which runs Selly Oak, can be viewed via:

Question 154-165 of the evidence from 21 June covers the impact of press intrusion on the work at Selly Oak RCDM.

The following text is the 'core' response that I have sent to those who have emailed me and includes two Parliamentary answers that I received after asking questions about the RCDM in April.  I hope this will put the record straight.


The remarks attributed to me in the 10 June edition of the Mail on Sunday were an inaccurate reflection of the lengthy conversation I had with the reporter on Thursday night.  This included the example of a soldier who had had his hand successfully reconstructed after having three ribs removed for the purpose.  He would have lost his hand were it not for the skill and dedication of the clinical staff involved - the very staff whose morale is being constantly undermined by the barrage of unjustified criticism coming from the media who regurgitate and exaggerate old stories.  I am informed that some staff have got so fed up with this situation that they are looking for new jobs and such is their skill that they will be snapped up by other hospitals.   What good will that do our troops?  You will note that the particular incident which apparently justified the headline "Muslim Women Abuse Soldier at Troops Hospital" took place a month ago and was described by the soldier involved (not a patient) as being a minor incident.  Though I do not condone what took place, I am told the use of the word "abuse" does not reflect what happened.  There has been another allegation that a soldier was abused by a Muslim nurse, yet there has never been a Muslim nurse on any of the wards where soldiers have been treated.

I informed the reporter from the MoS about this type of inaccurate report and I also told him of my recent meeting with one of the injured men whose case has been given a high media profile (unfavourable to the hospital).  At the point I met the soldier, he was returning to the ward after a weekend away.  He remains in the ward despite the hospital’s view that he is ready to be discharged to military-run rehabilitation.   At the different stages in his treatment, he has been in three separate wards appropriate to his condition at the time.  Surveys of military personnel who have received treatment at Selly Oak have been overwhelmingly favourable - none of this is reported because it does not fit the picture that has been painted by those seeking to undermine the work being done at Selly Oak.   They care more for a good story than the damage they are doing.  They are not concerned about any effect on morale caused by giving our armed forces such a negative impression of the quality of care they might expect to receive should they be injured!

The decision by the MoD to base hospital care of military staff in the NHS was taken, not to cut costs, as stated in the article, but for clinical reasons.  Health care has become more specialised and the range of specialties and depth of experience required to provide the full range of care required for our troops, some of whom have terrible injuries that would not have been treatable in the past (such as the damaged hand described above) can only be provided by a large acute teaching trust.

Also the training and education of the clinical military staff needs to be undertaken in an environment where the full range of injuries and illnesses are seen and treated. This is to better equip the military clinicians to deal with any eventuality when deployed at times of conflict.  The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak provides both these functions.

Unfortunately, there are elements at senior level within the armed forces that have been holding on to the view that we should retain separate military facilities.  Ignoring the views of their own senior people in RCDM, they have been using the media to undermine the excellent work being done at Selly Oak and its sister hospital, the Queen Elizabeth, in order to promote their campaign.  It is only in that context that I used the word "fiefdom".  At no point did I say that the soldiers wanted a fiefdom.

The reference to "clutter" also gives the wrong impression.  When I visited the ward where 12 of the 20 military patients in the hospital were being treated (and remember their numbers can vary substantially such that any "dedicated ward" could one day be half empty and the next full to overflowing) I was struck by how many people, in particular military staff in uniform, were on the ward.  I have been told that this is usually in double figures and on one recent occasion it was possible to count 19 non-clinical uniformed military staff on the ward!  There is no doubt that the ward is old and cramped as is all the accommodation in this hospital but a new hospital is currently being constructed and by 2010 all patients will have first class facilities.   Meanwhile, it can hardly be conducive to recovery, or to security, to have so many people milling around the wards.

On the question of security, when I visited, I was escorted by a member of staff who has access.  The ward was locked with a card access system and intercom.  The military have assessed the ward's security, as have the Police and are satisfied with security.  Furthermore, the military staff in uniform who are based on the ward can and should challenge anybody they want to. The military and Police are the experts on security not the hospital staff.  Of course, initially the RCDM tried to keep the identity of the ward unknown, but the press published it!

Finally, I reproduce below a couple of parliamentary answers on the RCDM:

16 Apr 2007 : Column 139W

Armed Forces: Selly Oak Hospital

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what surveys have been carried out among injured service personnel treated at Selly Oak hospital to ascertain their views on the quality of the care and treatment they received; and if he will make a statement. [129396]

Derek Twigg: The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine is undertaking a pilot military patient survey of military patients over the period up to the end of June. The survey covers military in-patients treated at hospitals of the University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, including Selly Oak, which is the principal receiving hospital for military patients.

Emerging results from this pilot survey are being regularly analysed to establish any significant trends and to note any concerns expressed by patients. Our most recent analysis found that 98 per cent. of those who answered the question “Overall, how would you rate the care you received?” responded that it was “excellent”, “very good” or “good”. The survey is anonymous, but concerns expressed by individuals that may have a general application are all addressed, in consultation with NHS management as necessary, as we continue to seek further improvements in the care that our service men and women receive.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the level of recovery of injured service personnel treated at Selly Oak hospital compared with other previous arrangements. [129397]

Derek Twigg: It is difficult to compare like with like, given the changes that have occurred since the decision to close military hospitals in the mid-1990s, including advances in medicine, on the battlefield and elsewhere, and the level of personal protection now available to our troops. These changes have contributed to substantial improvements in the prospects of survival and recovery from serious wounds.

The Chief of the General Staff commented in a recent interview,

"There is nowhere better in the country, nowhere more expert at polytrauma medicine than Selly Oak, that's why our people are there".

In conclusion, the coverage in the MoS was deliberately slanted to give the impression that I was not concerned about wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan when, in fact, the opposite is the case and I was trying to put a true reflection of the excellent work that has been going on at Selly Oak.  What may not be realised from the media coverage is that the hospital also provides non-emergency treatment for military staff.    I have, of course, written to the Mail on Sunday in an attempt to put the record straight.


[1] Examples of abusive communications regarding the Mail on Sunday article:
Sent: 11 June 2007 16:11
To: JONES, Lynne
How can you possibly defend abuse of a British soldier by a bunch of towelheads?
Typical new labor bitch.
Sent: 14 June 2007 04:05
To: JONES, Lynne
Firstly, you are a disgrace to your country, how dare you take the side of a screaming bunch of rag heads? If i was that soldier who had these muslim bitches screaming in my face, i would have smashed their heads into the pavement and wiped my arse on their veils.
It is blindingly obvious to a lot of people that you are after the vote of these smelly c*nts, your whole government is a shambles, you wont be in power for much longer anyway, so thats not a problem.
You have to ask yourself why so many British people (i bet you just hate it when we use that racist word dont you?) are starting to vote for the BNP?
You better start bucking your ideas up.
Ex 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.
Letter dated 10 June received 13 June
”I read that you are not prepared to protect our servicemen from wog women”
”If these wog women do not like this country, they are free to go back to the barbaric country from which they came”

[2] Example of communication from a soldier who was horrified by the above abuse.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: 28 June 2007 10:57
To: JONES, Lynne
Subject: Selly Oak- abusive mails
I have just read some of the abusive comments aimed at you on your website.
Speaking as an ex-soldier, all I can say is that I'm embarrassed that people choose to make their feelings known in such knuckle headed,ignorant and abusive way.

Just want you to know not all ex soldiers  are as racially abusive as this.

I also believe you have been a victim of bad and vindictive journalism whose sole intention was to discredit you and whip up anti-Muslim sentiments.

I see on your site that you are standing down as an MP so I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the best for the future.

2nd Btn Grenadier Guards 1981-1991

Ps By all means put this letter on your website to counter the other abusive letters


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