Caring Staff Help Our Boys on the Road to Recovery; AGENDA There Have Been Some Problems but the Care of Wounded Military Personnel at Selly Oak Hospital Shows the Birmingham Centre Is a Gateway to Excellence, Staff and Recovering Soldiers Told Mervyn Jones
Recovering in the S4 trauma and orthopaedic ward at Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital, Lance Sergeant Adam Ball of the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards is a focused and resilient man.
Just eight weeks earlier, he had lost a leg in combat with the Taliban in Sangin, Afghanistan.
Praising the clinical and welfare support he had had since being wounded - and delaying a lunchtime excursion with two of the hospital's military liaison officers to speak to our reporter - 22-year-old L/Sgt Ball was upbeat, chipper - and mobile again.
"Just stay positive and let them get on with their job because, believe me, it really does work. I cannot fault it," he said.
"They've got your best interests at heart here and you know you're in good hands. The military nurses have a real sense of what you've been through, obviously, and the NHS nurses are excellent too."
The admiration is mutual. Just going out for a pub lunch so soon after a grievous injury reflects the remarkable physical fitness and mental attitude of military personnel returning injured from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Heartening too are the many tales heard in Selly Oak Hospital of public support for those injured on military operations.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Dave Schofield of the 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment - a Military Liaison Officer at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) on the Selly Oak Hospital site - told of taking a group of injured soldiers from the ward to a local pub and, when going to pay, a fellow-customer and local businessman stepping-in to settle the bill.
"Things like that - by no means a one-off - make you realise there are lots of people out there who really do care about the welfare of these guys," said WO2 Schofield.
An elderly patient on the same ward, a former soldier, told his family that he wanted all donations at his funeral to be given to the hospital's military welfare fund.
In due course his instruction was followed, and the donation very gratefully received.
The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM), created in 2001, provides military medical support to Armed Forces personnel deployed on operations.
It does so through the training of military medical personnel, by research into current clinical and field medical best-practice, and by the provision of a clinical division and staff for Ward S4 at Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital.
Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said in a BBC interview: "There is nowhere better in the country, nowhere more expert at polytrauma medicine, than the hospital at Selly Oak. That is why our people are there."
Ward S4 now has 39 military nurses who, with matron-led NHS counterparts, deliver round-the-clock care to both non-combat and operational military casualties.
Kept in close proximity whenever possible, injured military personnel have access to a complete range of surgical specialisms at five Birmingham hospitals, two of which, including Selly Oak, are part of the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust which handles more than half a million patients each year.
Major Christine Birkby, senior military nurse, said: "We try as best we can, depending on clinical need, to cohort patients together on the ward. Overall, it's working well and everyone is integrating. It can be distressing to see the guys arrive but when in their rehabilitation phase they visit, and they are walking, and say 'it's all down to you' - that's when you get a real buzz.
"The downside can be reading the often ill-informed stuff that the press re-cycle about this place. …