Birmingham doctors treating British military casualties have revealed they have been inundated with four times as many battle-injured soldiers from Afghanistan in the past month compared to a year ago.
The news comes as the country mourns the death of eight soldiers, three from the Midlands, whose bodies were flown back to the UK on Monday.
Selly Oak’s Royal Centre for Defence Medicine has had a surge of Army admissions from the war-torn country since Operation Panther’s Claw began in Helmand province in early June.
New Military of Defence (MoD) figures show 66 soldiers were flown back for treatment from Afghanistan in June this year, with doctors fighting to save the lives of 32 injured in battle.
It compares to 46 soldiers treated from Afghanistan over the same period a year ago – of which only eight were due to battle wounds from burns to blasts.
Some 24 soldiers, 12 with battle injuries, already arrived at the hospital this month. The revelations follow the death of 15 soldiers in little under a week in the difficult terrain against insurgents, taking the total number of British deaths in Afghanistan to 184, five more than the total from the Iraq conflict. The latest deaths include 18-year-old Birmingham soldier Joe Murphy and Jonathan Horne, aged 27, of Walsall.
The Royal Centre of Defence Medicine receives all British military casualties, who are then treated by specialists at Selly Oak and Edgbaston’s Queen Elizabeth NHS hospitals, run by University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust. In just over a year, 595 military patients have been flown in from Afghanistan needing urgent care, with 230 of those treated for battle-injuries.
A Military of Defence (MOD) spokesman said numbers of military casualties at Selly Oak had increased in the past month, but added numbers were still not as high as two year ago and admission levels could fluctuate according to the season.
The MOD spokesman said: “The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) has experienced an increase in military in-patients originating from operations in Afghanistan since the start of Operation Panther’s Claw.
“This influx includes all classes of patients, including battle injured, non-battle injuries and patients suffering disease.
“While numbers are higher than the usual throughput, numbers have not reached the level of patients admitted during the peak experienced in 2007.”
Gareth Duggan, spokesman for the Foundation Trust, said doctors and nurses were working round the clock to save soldiers’ lives.
“The increase in the number of battle casualties began in late June and the Trust is continuing to provide the best possible care to all its patients,” said Mr Duggan. “The excellent planning and hard work of military and NHS staff means the Trust has not reached its capacity for treating military patients, despite the recent increase in the number of casualties.
“In the event that we do require greater capacity, the Ministry of Defence and the NHS have plans in place to ensure all patients continue to receive the best possible care.”