Ministry of Defence News
   Official News Blog of the UK Ministry of Defence  

Monday, 20 August 2007

DEFENCE IN THE MEDIA: 20 August 2007

Royal Navy on standby to help with hurricane relief effort in the Caribbean
There is considerable coverage of the situation in the Caribbean as Hurricane Dean passes through Jamaica and beyond towards the Cayman Islands and Mexico. The Ministry of Defence can confirm that HMS Portland and RFA Wave Ruler are tracking the hurricane. Currently on hurricane relief and maritime security duties as part of Atlantic Patrol North tasking, they are monitoring the situation closely and will react immediately if necessary.

Publication of the 'Sniper One' book
A story in The Sunday Times refers to the publication of a book called ‘Sniper One’ by Colour Sergeant Dan Mills, 1st Battalion Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (1 PWRR). The book is being published at the end of August and is currently being serialised in The Sun newspaper. The Sunday Times article incorrectly stated that authorisation for this book was given last week and ‘makes a mockery’ of MOD rules. This is inaccurate. Authorisation to publish was given in March 2007 using the normal authorisation procedures then in place.. The new 2007 DIN 03-006 also states that serving personnel cannot receive payment for publishing books based on the use of official information or experiences.

Iraq objectives have failed
There is considerbale coverage in the media over the weekend which claims that the UK mission in Iraq has failed. We have already handed over security responsibility to the Iraqis in three of our four provinces in the south of Iraq, and, in line with our goals, we are reducing our force levels as the capacity of Iraqi Security Forces grows. UK forces attract the majority of attacks in Basra because they stand between the militia and their objectives and, although the militias are trying to claim credit for ‘driving us out’, they are failing. The British forces position in Basra will be held until the Iraqi security forces are able to take over from us. Increasingly, during the transition in Basra city, they have proved able to do that. British forces are doing an excellent job in Iraq and as the Chief of the Defence Staff recently said we have had success. The violence in Basra is much lower and of a different nature to Baghdad. Although the militias are trying claim credit for ‘driving us out’ they are failing. We are transferring responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces in line with conditions on the ground.

'Extra troops' for Afghanistan
An article in the News of the World claims that the MOD is preparing to send 2,000 extra troops to support operations in Afghanistan. There are no plans at present to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan beyond what has already been announced.

FOR THE RECORD: 20 August 2007

CGS letter to The Sun
Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, who returned this weekend from a visit to UK troops in Afghanistan, wrote the following letter to the Sun newspaper on his return.

"I returned yesterday from visiting the frontline troops in Helmand and Kandahar. Although the fight is tough, their morale is sky high. I am really proud of our soldiers and marines, and the members of the Royal Navy and RAF who support them. They know why they are in Afghanistan and why their mission is important. They continue to face the dangers with courage, fortitude, characteristic good humour and growing success.

"The Sun has always been a great supporter of our troops and I would ask that you, the readers, continue with that support for all our troops who fight for your defence and put their lives on the line for the nation. Part of that support is understanding what we are doing and why. So if you know a young soldier, why not drop him a line or shake him by the hand?
He doesn’t expect thanks but I know he would really appreciate it.

"The nation will be giving him a medal – hopefully with a special clasp that says “Southern Afghanistan” – but he wants you to know how he earned it and why he wears it with great pride. Anyone who has served with the Army in Afghanistan for more than 28 days is entitled to a campaign medal. It's my belief there should be a clasp on the Afghanistan Medal that says Southern Afghanistan. I'm going to argue the case for it. I think that would be proper recognition of the very difficult circumstances and the fighting that's going on here - a way for a grateful nation to say thank you.

"I also find it rather irritating for soldiers families who want to send a package to their son or brother or whoever is fighting out here has to pay a fiver for a two kilogram package. Come on Royal Mail and the Post Office – I think you can do that for free. So why are we there? Let me make one thing very clear - Afghanistan is not Iraq. Iraq is an unpopular war in which 168 of our service men and women have so valiantly given their lives; Afghanistan is a misunderstood war.  Of course it is a tragedy when anyone of our young service men loses his life on operations, but it is a double tragedy if people in the country don’t really know why he was risking it in the first place.

"This may seem obvious, but recently in many people’s minds our involvement in these two campaigns has become somewhat blurred. Let me clarify things from the perspectives of Afghanistan. The Army’s involvement in that country and in Helmand Province in particular, is about trying to provide security in Afghanistan, in order to enable others to get on and do reconstruction, provide education and healthcare and to create jobs, proper jobs, not just ones fuelled by the evil narcotics trade. All this is needed to provide hope and new opportunities for the people and to let them live under the government that they voted for recently.

"So we are not fighting the Afghans, but we are trying to give a new chance to these people whose country has been blighted and exploited by invasion and civil war for the last thirty years. Ok, very noble but what has this got to do with us? Why is this worth fighting for? After all Afghanistan is a very long way away from the UK. Well, the security of Afghanistan impacts directly on all of us and the security of our nation.

If we allow the mission in Afghanistan to fail or if we allow space for terrorists to train, equip and prepare then they will find it easier to attack civilian targets in the UK as they have done elsewhere around the world, most notably on 9/11. In strong partnership with our NATO allies and other friends, including the Pakistani Army on their side of the border, we are striving to prevent our enemies establishing a safe haven. We and our allies are taking the battle to them. But this isn’t just about fighting.

"We and our colleagues in other government departments are working to support and build the Afghan nation so that they have a genuine alternative to being under the power of terrorist or extremist networks like Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. All this is easier said than done but we need to be committed to stay the course in Afghanistan. The Army is up for it, because we know that the blood that we spill in the deserts of Helmand is in direct defence of our nation – we are fighting the away match of a much wider campaign against terrorism; Afghanistan is just the most pressing part of that campaign.

"We can be busy, we can be stretched, we can run hot – provided we are looking after individuals. And critically, my soldiers feel valued, supported and thanked for what they are doing."

IMAGE OF THE DAY: 20 August 2007

Cgs_in_helmandChief of the General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt, far right of picture, chats to soldiers from B Squadron Light Dragoons who are based in Camp Bastion. Gen Dannatt was in Afghanistan to see the work of troops based in Kandahar, Camp Bastion, Lashkar Gah and Gereshk [Picture: Sgt Will Craig]

Defence Diary: 20 August 2007

Media Facility to mark the departure of HMS Clyde for a five-year deployment to the South Atlantic

Friday, 17 August 2007

For the record: Hospital care for the Armed Forces

The Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Louis Lillywhite, who is Britain's highest-ranking military medic, has responded to an article in the Daily Mail which alleges that Selly Oak hospital faces and "overcrowding crisis" in treating troops injured on operations.

"One of the most important duties of the Defence Medical Services is to ensure that Armed Forces personnel are provided with the highest possible standard of care when wounded in action. This we are doing, and as the head of our military medical services I am immensely proud of what we and the University of Birmingham Hospital Trust are achieving every day of every week.

"I am currently in Afghanistan, accompanied by the Professor of Traumatology from Birmingham.  We are seeing for ourselves the superb standard of care and the outcome of a variety of pioneering treatments that are saving the lives of our injured personnel and those of our Allies. I doubt that any could question the excellence of the care that we provide in operational theatres - such as at the new field hospitals in Basrah and the one I have been visiting at Camp Bastion.  These are rightly recognised by those who have seen them as world class.

"This quality of care continues at the NHS hospital at Selly Oak in Birmingham, but that hosapitla has been the subject of much criticism.  Most recently, in his article Matthew Hickley painted an alarming picture of Selly Oak Hospital now facing an “overcrowding crisis”.

"I welcome the chance to put the record straight. Our most serious casualties have multiple and complex injuries and they will normally be treated on ward S4 at Selly Oak. But, some will require other specialist treatment, such as neurosurgery or burns care, in which case they will be transferred to the appropriate specialist unit elsewhere in Selly Oak or in another of the NHS hospitals in Birmingham.  It would clearly be wrong to treat a neurosurgical casualty on ward S4, which primarily deals with orthopaedics and general trauma.

"Ward S4 has 34 beds within which there is a 14-bed military managed ward, partitioned from the rest of S4. 

"Military casualty numbers can vary from day to day, when numbers are low, they are grouped together in the military partitioned section if their condition allows.

"However, when numbers are higher, we use the rest of the capacity of ward S4. For example, as at Thursday 16 August 2007 there were 13 battle casualties from Iraq or Afghanistan plus 5 other military in-patients being treated on S4. There were also another 8 military in-patients being appropriately treated in specialist areas elsewhere in Birmingham hospitals. 

"When the new Birmingham hospital is built, which will be the finest one in Europe and is planned to start admitting patients in 2010, we will be able to develop our current military managed ward concept further in the 36-bed wards that this first class University Hospital will offer. 

"The most important point for our most seriously injured personnel is that they should receive the best possible care. This, and nothing else, determines where they are treated. Over the years, Birmingham has developed unequalled experience and expertise in treating serious trauma injuries of a type and number not seen elsewhere in UK. 

"Articles such as this can only have the effect of undermining the morale not only of those dedicated military and NHS staff working in Birmingham to rebuild the bodies of our injured troops, but also the morale of our troops currently fighting on operations and their loved ones at home.   They deserve better. "

Lieutenant General Louis Lillywhite


Your round-up of the week's defence news.

Defence in the Media: 17 August 2007

Government planning to evacuate UK nationals from Zimbabwe
There is speculation in The Times newspaper that the UK is making contingency plans to evacuate over 20,000 UK nationals from Zimbabwe. As you would expect, MOD routinely reviews and updates contingency plans for a number of different locations around the world. However we do not discuss these plans.

Military managed ward can't cope with numbers of casualties
There is a report in the Daily Mail newspaper which claims that the MOD's military managed ward at Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham has been swamped by the number of casualties being admitted and that it has an overcrowding problem. Our injured Service personnel receive the best clinical care. This determines where they are treated. Our most serious casualties have multiple and complex injuries. If they require trauma and orthopaedic treatment, they will usually be treated on ward S4 at Selly Oak. If they need a specific treatment from another specialist unit, they will be transferred to receive it. We have increased the military nursing presence on all of ward S4. There are now a total of 39 military nurses (Specialist, General and Health Care Assistants) in place on S4 ward. The military team includes military nursing managers and a military ward-master. Military nursing staff are on duty on every shift.

Numbers  of military patients on the ward can vary on an almost daily basis – the capacity of the S4 ward is 34 beds. Last night there were 18 military patients on ward S4, of whom 13 were battle casualties from Iraq or Afghanistan. The total number of military in-patients across all Birmingham hospitals was 26, admitted for any medical reason from all over the world. (This total of 26 includes  the battle casualties on ward S4 at Selly Oak).

When military patient numbers are low, and their clinical condition allows, they  are brought together at one end of  the S4 ward in a 14 bed partitioned section. When numbers are higher – as they are now – then they will be treated across ward S4,  but the level of military carers a military patient will see on ward S4 is unaffected by which part of the ward they are being treated in. We have the flexibility to meet current needs within ward  S4. But we are addressing how we will carry the concept forward  into the Birmingham New Hospital project on another site, which is planned to start admitting patients in 2010.  The  wholly new layout of this hospital  gives us the  opportunity to further improve the ‘military ethos’  aspects in full cooperation with NHS hospital authorities.

They are all part of a combined military/civilian team who work in a co-ordinated and co-operative manner as ONE team, ensuring that all patients have access to the expertise of the group as a whole. So military patients see a significant military nursing presence, but also have the advantage of care from some of the highly trained and experienced trauma and orthopaedic NHS ward staff as well. Every military patient in Selly Oak – wherever they are treated – is allocated a named military nurse.

Image of the day: 17 August 2007

Cran07608204The Red Arrows fly over College Hall on the occasion of the Queen's Review at RAF Cranwell, Thursday 16 August 2007 [Picture: RAF]

Defence Diary: 17 August 2007

Assistant Chief of the General Staff Major General Simon Mayall visits the Army Foundation College in Harrogate for their passing out parade.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

For the record - 16 August 2007

The facts about compensation for the Armed Forces
There has been considerable speculation in the media in recent weeks regarding how compensation is awarded to members of the Armed Forces. The MOD compensation schemes such the War Pension Scheme and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) are no-fault schemes which provide a quick route to compensation for injuries/illness or death caused by Service. They do not interfere with a person’s right to claim civil damages against the MOD where they believe that the injury/illness or death was a result of negligence on the part of the MOD.

The AFCS awards consist of lump sums which are tax-free, and for the more severely injured, an additional amount in the form of a ‘Guaranteed Income Payment’. The Guaranteed Income Payment is paid on discharge; it too is tax-free, inflation proof and paid monthly for life.  This monthly payment can amount to several hundreds of thousands of pounds over a lifetime. AFCS claims can also be made in service.

For example:

A 25 year old man with seven years service and a salary of £25,000 who loses his arm at the elbow, will receive an immediate lump sum of £57,000 plus an inflation proof tax-free guaranteed income of over £16,000 for life.  This is worth more than £490,000 over the individual’s lifetime.

Awards under civil compensation may inevitably be higher because the claimant must prove negligence in order for the claim to succeed.

The MOD constantly monitors the scheme to make sure that we continue to provide an appropriate compensation package. Indeed Under Secretary of State for Defence Derek Twigg recently commissioned a review of the rules for multiple injuries. It is too early to say whether this review will result in any changes to the scheme.