You may have seen the moving article in a recent Daily Telegraph headed “Haunted by the ghosts of dead soldiers”. This illustrates a subject on which I have long held clear views. Years ago when I wore uniform we were all supported by a comprehensive medical establishment. This was manned and equipped to deal with whatever afflicted anyone, whether physical or mental. It was not restricted to the serving but also had a measure of responsibility for the retired, or pensioners. Then, in line with the change of administrative ethos launched in the 1990s and on-going, this was changed from ‘support in-Service on demand’ to ‘cost-effective management of support resources’. In medical terms, this has meant that very often there is no RAMC support in barracks where soldiers and their families now queue like everyone else for the local GP. If they are hospitalised, it is to an NHS facility, not to a BMH. Such changes run hand in glove with the change from an ethos of “command” (with all that that implies) to one of “management” (which is effected with the eye prioritised on budgetary micro-control). The result is that resources have ceased to be applied as needed for support of the key component of armed strength, its people. This, more broadly, was observed during the redundancy programmes of recent years when soldiers (and other Services people) were discarded with no in-Service provision for lasting medical conditions (let alone those which surfaced later, as PTSD is prone to do). Services people were then given payments and struck off, and that was that – because money was involved? The result has been fear, fury and frustration along with the anticipated failure of the idiotic policy of filling the ranks with more reservists, and the current difficulties with regular recruiting as well. The employment of high visibility commercial consultants to achieve these changes was plainly a waste of money spent:
Not only are the Services below required strength and inadequately equipped, but the needs of the human beings who serve do not attract the attention of the “managers” in the Ministry of Defence. It used to be a principle of management that a person who interferes lifts responsibility for an action from the person who is charged with its delivery. In this case, it is the Treasury which interferes - but assumes no responsibility for the resolution of a military situation in which we may be involved anywhere in the world. It is high time that the Treasury was confined to its counting house. Services people should have the confidence and support of Services medical facilities during their service, and after it for as long as they need them. The merits of dismissal on redundancy and/or for any medical reason, with a large payment, needs to be re-examined against the individually valuable solution of ready access to appropriate Services medical and social care facilities for as long as a problem caused in or by military service continues. This could be based on a system of In- and Out- Pensioners such as the Services enjoyed hundreds of years ago. Today, however, this could be more efficiently administered, and be infinitely better for the morale of all concerned.