The following is from one of my local Gosport Borough Councillors (Hardway Ward) Peter Langdon:
While assurances have been given by the Government that armed forces casualties receive first class treatment, media reports to the contrary and infections from superbugs c difficile and MRSA paint a different picture. It is no surprise therefore, that many thousands of people have signed the Downing Street petition seeking the re-instatement of a dedicated military hospital.
Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital and its military ward will close when the planned new Birmingham hospital opens in 2010. Therefore, the move from Haslar to Selley Oak has been a scandalous waste of tax payers money. In addition, the irrational £200m plan to move the Centre of Defence Medicine from Gosport to an airfield in Lichfield, some 18 miles from both Selly Oak and Birmingham Hospitals, has been abandoned for lack of funds. As a consequence Defence Medical Staff are scattered between South Hampshire and Birmingham and in this latter place have no proper home, accommodation, training or sports and other service facilities whatsoever.
Recently, a question in Parliament revealed a 2,065 shortfall in Defence Medical Services (DMS) manpower. With the organisational shambles now prevailing, it is no wonder they are voting with their feet!
A military organisation is dependant upon sound leadership, team spirit, morale, comradeship and teamwork. There must also be a proper home to provide identity and satisfy basic needs such as family life. None of these exist in Birmingham. The plan to move there has been a disaster.
Haslar, together with the field hospital and medical training at Fort Blockhouse, service accommodation, married quarters and recreational facilities, provides a proper home.
Queen Alexandra Hospital will have one less operating theatre and one less ward when its rebuild, currently in hand, is complete. Today, it is not unusual to find ambulances with sick patients queuing at A&E. It seems there will be no spare capacity at QA to take on the some 40 NHS operations undertaken daily in Haslar’s ten operating theatres, if this hospital’s planned closure in 2009 occurs.
80,000 and possibly 120,000 new homes are planned for South Hampshire in the next 20 years. That's a population increase equivalent to double that of present day Portsmouth. No hospital provision has been made for this population growth. The threatened closure of St. Richard's Hospital in West Sussex will, if this takes place, put further strain on Queen Alexandra Hospital. (Some 84,000 cases per year.)
For the reasons before, both the NHS and DMS clearly need Haslar. There is no reason why Haslar, Queen Alexandra and Southampton Teaching Hospital cannot work in partnership with the DMS. Doing so will save the Government the hundreds of millions of pounds needed to move Gosport’s facilities to Birmingham and also obviate the need to move the NHS minor injuries unit at Haslar to the Gosport War Memorial Hospital.
Training and proper care have made our armed forces pre-eminent in warfare for hundreds of years. Confidence in the operational capability of Defence Medical Services is a key plank in the overall framework.
The Military Covenant calls for personal sacrifice - including the ultimate sacrifice - in the service of the nation. In return, the armed forces must always be able to expect fair treatment. With wounded troops reduced to mere figures on a balance sheet, the present attitude to our forces is a disgrace.
Haslar must be re-instated as a Military hospital working in partnership with the NHS. That is what the all party Haslar Task force, chaired by Gosport’s MP Peter Viggers, seeks to achieve.