Medical bills for Gulf War veterans

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sick Gulf veterans are being asked to pay army doctors for details of their own medical records.

They have also been told that their GPs cannot be given details of the drugs and injections they were given because the information is "classified".

Other veterans have been been refused reimbursement of rail fares to army hospitals for treatment.

Dr David Clark, the shadow defence spokesman, said the "outrageous" treatment contradicted claims by Nicholas Soames, the defence minister, in Parliament that the sick veterans were now being looked after.

"I think the charging is outrageous. If the minister is saying he is going to play ball and be open with the veterans, he cannot then charge them for their own medical records.

"It is a further example of the Government's half-hearted attempt to address this problem. I still remain to be convinced that they are serious about it," he said.

Dr Clark said he would be raising the matter in Parliament.

One sick veteran, Warrant Officer Ray Bristow, 38, said he had received no treatment other than counselling which he had arranged himself.

He was medically discharged from the Territorial Army after returning from the Gulf and developing symptoms, which include memory loss, lethargy, hot sweats and insomnia.

Mr Bristow, who served as an army medic, said neither he nor his GP knew what drugs he had been given in the Gulf.

In a letter seen by The Independent, army doctors have asked him to pay a pounds 10 fee plus 10p for each of the 37 pages of his medical record.

Veterans are told to make their cheques payable to the Ministry of Defence's "Imprest Account" at the Royal Defence Medical College.

Although Mr Bristow has paid the money he does not expect to find out what drugs he was given.

In his letter, Brigadier BC McDermott, of the Army Medical Directorate, said: "The drugs given during and before the Gulf War are classified. I do not have the authority to obtain this information, let alone pass it on to the patient." He adds: `This likewise applies to any injections and immunisation that you may have received at that time."

Although the MoD has made assurances to the Commons defence select committee that such information is not classified, Mr Bristow is still none the wiser.

He said: "They asked for volunteers in the Gulf and I had a moral obligation to go because I had the training. I served with pride and dignity and feel terribly let down."

Richie Turnbull, a Chester-based veteran, has been refused reimbursement of his rail fares for treatment of his chronic condition at the Royal Brompton Hospital, in London.

Mr Turnbull, 45, has emphysema and chronic asthma and has been told by MoD doctors that his life expectancy is "seriously reduced".

He has had to take nine different forms of medication a day since returning from the Gulf, where he served with the RAF's nuclear, biological and chemical warfare defence unit.

His hospital trips cost pounds 130 because his condition is so serious he must be accompanied. Mr Turnbull, a father of three, said he could not afford to pay the fare on a war pension of pounds 70 a week.

He said: "I feel like I have been told to go away and die."