Nurses at Selly Oak Hospital are reviewing bed availability on a 48-hour basis as the number of British casualties in Afghanistan continues to peak ahead of the country’s presidential elections next month.
Doctors at the medical unit in Camp Bastion, which has been staffed by Kings Heath 202 Field Hospital for the last 12 weeks, reported that 157 casualties were treated last week – the highest figure to date.
Military of Defence figures show 66 soldiers were flown back to Birmingham for treatment from Afghanistan in June this year, with doctors fighting to save the lives of 32 injured in battle.
Currently a total of 31 soldiers are receiving treatment at the hospital, including non-battle injured patients.
Despite the huge rise in the number of casualties, Health Minister Mike O’Brien said that all the “necessary contingency plans” were in place to cope.
During a visit to the military wing yesterday, Mr O’Brien said: “The hospital has in place its own plans to deal with the changes in numbers of injured troops.
“Each individual patient is dealt with in the best way possible.
“If you just look at the fluctuations in the figures over the past few months, which have seen peaks of up to 32 patients and troughs of 14, then you can see how well the staff are doing.
“The soldiers need to know that if they get injured in Afghanistan they will get the highest quality care.That is exactly what Selly Oak offers.”
In the first five months of this year UK forces in Afghanistan recorded 418 attacks – up from 293 in the same time period last year.
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.
Lieutenant Commander Debra Emmerson, who is a ward manager at Selly Oak Hospital, said: “There is a definite and noticeable change here due to the operations currently ongoing in Afghanistan.
“We have the surge capability and we have been planning for this peak in casualties for some time.
“At the moment we are planning 48 hours ahead in terms of staff and beds. Our priority is that the ward remains safe and staffed.”
Lt Com Emmerson, who served as a matron at the Camp Bastion Field Hospital for three months last year, added: “Most of the military staff here have been deployed on operations so they are very experienced at dealing with surges like this. It’s hard work but we cope.”
n A soldier from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan yesterday.
The soldier, who was attached to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was on patrol in the Nad e Ali district of central Helmand province. The soldier’s next of kin have been informed.