‘Help for our veterans is a joke’ – Sunderland support network chairman

Time for change : Graham Hall says Injured veterans are not receiving proper treatment.
Time for change : Graham Hall says Injured veterans are not receiving proper treatment.
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A FORCES network chief from Wearside has backed medical experts over accusations the Government has failed to honour its promise to care for those injured in Britain’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Professor Neil Greenberg, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Professor Tim Briggs, a leading orthopaedic surgeon, have said commitments made in the Armed Forces Covenant that veterans should receive priority treatment in the NHS, for injuries suffered in the line of duty, are not being fulfilled.

They include former service personnel who have lost limbs in the course of operations, as well as those who have suffered mental health problems.

Freedom of information figures obtained by the military charity Help for Heroes show almost 13,000 service personnel have been medically discharged for musculoskeletal disorders since 2001 – those who have lost limbs or have problems with ligaments and joints – with many requiring constant care for the rest of their lives.

There are about 26,000 veterans living in Sunderland, with the city one of the biggest areas for army, navy and RAF recruitment.

Prof Greenberg, who is the Royal College of Psychiatrists lead on veterans’ issues, said the Government was not delivering on the promises it had made.

He said: “The Government indeed claims to be providing many forms of support and mental health care, particularly for veterans, but in my view the Government needs to be a bit more honest about what it is delivering and just what it says it’s delivering, because the two are definitely not the same.”

Chairman of Sunderland Armed Forces Network (SAFN), Graham Hall, said today that it has been his opinion for some time that many veterans are not given proper treatment once they return from the frontline.

Mr Hall said: “Running the Sunderland Armed Forces Network I am not surprised at this at all.

“There are far too many people making a nice living on the backs of our former serving personnel, but all too often failing to help them appropriately.

“Having been involved with 221 veterans over the last three-and-a-half years, I am horrified how some organisations that you thought would be delivering care and support fail to do that for our former serving personnel.

“I could happily rant and rave all day, but the the Armed Forces Covenant Grant Scheme has been a joke and has attracted far too many organisations who have mutated themselves because of the funding and they have failed to deliver.”

SAFN this week launched an appeal to raise £20,000 to continue helping Sunderland’s war veterans after admitting funding has dried up.

The organisation is now calling on donations from individuals and businesses on Wearside.

“This is exactly why we have appealed to the people of Sunderland to help our ex-forces men and women, by donating to the SAFN knowing that 100 per cent will go to help our veterans,” added Mr Hall.

Health Minister Dan Poulter said the Government had now established 10 specialist centres for veterans who had lost limbs, and also set up 10 teams providing mental health care for ex-service personnel.

“When a veteran comes into contact with the NHS, if there is an equal need and an equal clinical priority with another patient, then the veteran does get priority and priority access to services,” said Mr Poulter.

“It is important that when these brave servicemen and women have put their lives on the line for our country in conflicts overseas, we do properly look after them when they return home.

“We have now invested £22million directly to do that.”

To find out more about SAFN, go to www.safn.org.uk, search for its Facebook page or email sunderlandafn@gmail.com.