The Government was under renewed fire yesterday over the treatment of British troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq amid claims that thousands of casualties were languishing on NHS waiting lists.
Former Chief of Defence Staff Lord Bramall joined the chorus of criticism after it was reported that about 5,000 troops could not return to frontline duty as they were waiting for NHS treatment, while the one remaining military hospital was hugely under used.
The Ministry of Defence would not comment on the figures but said the injured soldiers were not returning to the frontline as they were convalescing, and not because t hey were waiting for treatment.
The latest report, however, comes at a time when the conditions of troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq has come under intense political scrutiny.
Earlier this week Downing Street disclosed that Tony Blair had ordered a review of the support package for troops serving overseas, amid claims that some frontline soldiers were being paid less than the minimum wage of £5.35 an hour.
Meanwhile, concerns were highlighted over the use of the NHS to treat injured military personnel at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.
A physician at the military Royal Hospital Haslar at Gosport, Hants, told The Daily Telegraph yesterday that the secure facilities there were being largely ignored by the MoD.
Dr Peter Golding said the MoD preferred to send injured troops to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine based at Selly Oak Hospital rather than Haslar which is due to become a civilian hospital next year.
"It is an absolute scandal that the military do not get the preferential treatment they need," he said.
"What we are seeing is that a large number of servicemen cannot be deployed on operations because of their injuries. But here at Haslar we have a fantastic set-up which is being ignored and closing."
He said there was no reason why troops classified as P7R - temporarily injured and not fit for active service - could not be treated at Haslar, but the MoD had "set its heart on Selly Oak".
His criticisms were echoed by Lord Bramall who said changes to the military medical services under a series of defence reviews had turned out "disastrously".
He said that he had "very great concerns" about the medical care for wounded soldiers brought back to the UK for treatment, with just one and a half wards at Selly Oak available for military use.
"When you hear all the stories of the poor after-care for wounded soldiers, including the Territorial Army, the long waiting lists, the stretched medical facilities and some patients almost lost in the system, I am convinced that the Government has not done enough," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
However the MoD's director of healthcare, Air Commodore Paul Evans, said it was no longer possible to provide the full range of modern medical specialisms within a military hospital set-up.
"To treat these major trauma cases we need a whole range of multi-disciplinary teams to do that.
"That is not just trauma and orthopaedics - that is general surgeons, neuro-surgeons, and heavily-trained nurses - and the military just could not provide that in one of our military hospitals of old so we are reliant on big trauma centres in this country."
He said injured troops were placed on wards at Selly Oak according to their medical condition, although work was under way to see if a military-managed ward could be developed within the hospital.