Soldiers Injured in Today's War Zones to Be Given Priority Health Care by the NHS
Byline: By Tim Lewis Western Mail
Injured soldiers returning from tours of duty in conflict zones like Iraq and Afghanistan are to be given priority treatment by the NHS.
As part of the new initiative, there will also be six specialist units - including one in Wales - to help veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
The joint plan between health officials and the Ministry of Defence will see the possibility of fast-tracked NHS treatment extended from the 170,000 war pensioners to all 4.8 million men and women who were once in the forces.
Making the announcement, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said, "Our service men and women do an outstanding job and we all owe them a debt of gratitude and a duty of care, particularly those who have developed health problems as a result of their military service."
Veterans would theoretically be able to access priority treatment whenever their GPs diagnosed any form of illness related to their military service.
However, a Welsh Assembly Government spokeswoman explained that clinicians would then continue to decide on the priority for treatment based on patients' clinical needs - war veterans will not automatically go to the top of the waiting lists.
Meanwhile, the pilot scheme for a Veterans' Community-Based Mental Health Service will include a unit at Cardiff.
About 7% of all troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq have been diagnosed with mental health disorders.
Veterans Minister Derek Twigg said, "The new community health pilots will be staffed by qualified mental healthcare professionals who have an understanding of the military ethos and military operations, and an expertise in veterans' mental health.
"This will assist them in providing the best standard of care to our veterans."
Commodore Toby Elliott, chief executive of veteran welfare charity Combat Stress, welcomed the news and said, "We are delighted by this announcement and look forward to that promise being delivered to all veterans. …