According to the Daily Telegraph, thousands of injured personnel could be forced out of the military on medical grounds after the Army's head of personnel ordered commanders to face up to the "harsh reality" of an efficiency drive. But the minister for defence personnel, welfare and veterans has told the newspaper that no severely injured soldier will leave "until it is right for them and the Army, however long that takes". The newspaper reports that:
Documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph detail how the Ministry of Defence is attempting to accelerate the discharge of soldiers who are medically unfit, including the majority of those who have lost their limbs in bomb explosions and roadside ambushes.
The efficiency drive has been ordered because the Army has so many wounded on its books that able-bodied recruits are being turned away and its fighting strength is being diminished.
A total of 6,600 soldiers, more than 6 per cent of the army, have been classified as unfit for operational deployment.
The policy has angered some injured soldiers and their families. Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 26, lost both his legs and suffered brain damage in a Taliban bomb blast in 2006.
Diane Dernie, his mother, said: "We are terrified for Ben's future. He has literally put his body on the line for his country and now he faces being forced out. They must be able to find a desk job for him."
Maj Gen Andrew Gregory, the director general of Army personnel, wrote in a briefing note that retaining injured soldiers was not always in the "best interest of either the individual or the Army".
The note, which was sent to divisional commanders, stated: "The number of non-deployable personnel serving in the Army remains a concern in an Army that is focused on delivering operational capability. It is a harsh reality that we must look critically at how we manage our wounded, injured and sick, regardless of cause.
"This is not only to ensure that we have the maximum numbers available to deploy but also that we properly look after this cohort to ensure they are managed to a successful outcome."
The approach is at odds with a promise made by Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, that those disabled on operations could remain in the forces.
In the briefing note, Maj Gen Gregory admonished commanding officers for failing to refer enough injured soldiers to medical review boards. He also said he wanted more soldiers with less severe injuries to be discharged.
Under the new policy, called Army Recovery Capability (ARC), injured soldiers will be sent to four "personnel recovery centres" to help get them fit enough to return to a military post or to prepare them for life outside the Forces.
These are being built by the charity Help for Heroes with £4 million a year in running costs funded by the Royal British Legion. But even with charities paying the bulk of the bill, the Ministry of Defence is struggling to fund administrative and occupational health support services.
The British Legion is also funding a "battle back" centre to help disabled soldiers return to fitness.
Andrew Robathan, the minister for defence personnel, welfare and veterans, said seriously injured soldiers received "top-class" medical care and rehabilitation. "No severely injured soldier will leave until it is right for them and the Army, however long that takes," he added.
One of the biggest concerns for injured soldiers is the quality of treatment they will receive in the NHS after being discharged, particularly for the most seriously injured. Charities are increasingly concerned that the NHS is not adequately equipped to provide the same standard of care as that provided in facilities such as Headley Court in Surrey.