In Defence of Selly Oak; Treatment of Injured Soldiers and Armed Forces Personnel at Selly Oak Hospital Has Provoked Fierce Debate over Whether Military Hospitals Should Be Reinstated. Defence Minister Derek Twigg Told Health Correspondent Emma Brady Why This Unit Is "The Best Place" for Them 'Selly Oak Is Clearly the Best Place for Our Soldiers to Go When They Are Injured'

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Byline: Emma Brady

When the Ministry of Defence chose Selly Oak over 18 other teaching hospitals to develop the country's first centre for defence medicine, it was seen as a major coup.

The pounds 30 million Royal Centre for Defence Medicine was set up to receive and treat up to 1,000 wounded Army, Navy and RAF personnel, as well as develop military medics skills.

By the time the Princess Royal opened it in April 2001, seven of the UK's eight military hospitals had closed as a result of a defence spending review.

Defence Minister Derek Twigg claimed there was no longer a case of military-only hospitals because there are not enough patients.

"The number of casualties coming from Iraq and Afghanistan would still not justify the need for a military hospital because staff would not have the opportunity to update the skills, compared to a busy acute NHS trust," Mr Twigg said.

"I want to underline what General Sir Richard Dannatt has said as I've seen the work that is done at Selly Oak, It is clearly the best place for our soldiers to go when they are injured."

Since last October, allegations of poor treatment and injured solders being verbally abused by civilian visitors have resurrected calls for military hospitals to be reinstated.

Reports that teenage soldier Jamie Cooper was left to sleep in his own faeces after his colostomy bag was left to overflow is the latest controversy to hit the specialist centre.

The 18-year-old was injured by a mortar bomb last November while serving with the Royal Green Jackets in Basra, Iraq.

But General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the Army, took the unprecedented step of defending the care and treatment his troops receive at Selly Oak on Monday.

Mr Twigg believes the calls for military hospitals "are coming from a very small minority".

"It's clear the quality of care and commitment from staff at Selly Oak to provide the best possible treatment for some very difficult and traumatic injuries is excellent," he said.

"I think it's good that Sir Richard has said Selly Oak is the best place for his soldiers to be, as the calls for military hospitals to remain are coming from a very small minority."

Unlike a military hospital University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Selly Oak and QE hospitals, has experts in trauma, burns, plastic surgery, critical care, neuro-surgery, cardiothoracic, vascular and liver surgery all under one roof. …