New study calls for improved care for limbless veterans

Limbless Veterans Credit: PA

By Kris Jepson

A new study by Northumbria University has recommended a wide range of changes to improve care and support for limbless veterans.

The study involved interviewing 32 limbless veterans from across the UK aged between 43 and 95. The interviews were then analysed to identify common themes in the experiences of the veteran amputees.

Researchers hope the data can help NHS England's Veterans Trauma Network to focus on certain areas that have been highlighted, to improve care and support for the next generation of limbless veterans.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

The study, which was jointly produced by Northumbria University and Anglia Ruskin University recommended:

  • Veterans receive timely access to high quality support and specialist healthcare services - starting from amputation and extending throughout their lifetime. This will help maintain their capacity to engage in daily activities.

  • Attention is given to effective management of pain to those affected by stump and phantom pain.

  • Increased support for re-gaining employment, particularly in cases where veterans have limited pre-military education/training.

  • More support to counter isolation and loneliness post injury.

  • Special attention be paid to older veterans who have lost limbs prior to contemporary medical advances in prosthetics and care. At the moment too many of them experience a number of barriers to engaging in daily activities and having independence.

  • A holistic, multifaceted approach to care and support, which integrates a wide range of services/resources. This is "essential" to ensure veterans who've lost limbs receive the care and support they require to maintain an engagement in daily activities and independence throughout their lives.

Going forward we need to consider, pain, we need to consider ready access to good and effective limb fitting in a timely fashion. It's about having the right medical team, the right consultants, the right specialist nurses, and I suppose what we’ve tried to do to aid the Veterans Trauma Network is to give them an agenda of things that they should be looking at in, for 10,15, 20, 30, 40 years time, the problems faced, so hopefully we don’t have this situation where this becomes a forgotten generation.

Dr Matt Kiernan, Northumbria University

NHS England runs the Veterans Trauma Network, which provides specialist care to veterans with service-specific traumatic injuries.

The network operates 10 centres in eight major cities, including Plymouth, Oxford, London (three centres), Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Middlesbrough.

The NHS in England is working closely with military charities to deliver world-class care to our service personnel, including significantly increasing access to specialist mental health treatment, working with veterans to review limb-loss services and supporting GPs to deliver bespoke care to former members of the armed forces.

NHS England

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There are 402 British veterans who lost limbs during recent wars. According to the most recent figures from the Ministry of Defence:

  • 7 October 2001 to 31 March 2017: There were 291 UK Service personnel whose injuries included a traumatic or surgical amputation as a result of injuries sustained in Afghanistan.

  • The numbers of UK Service personnel serving in Afghanistan that suffered amputations was highest during 2009/10 and 2010/11, coinciding with a period of high operational tempo. The number of amputations suffered by UK troops has decreased over the last six years. This was due to a reduction in operational tempo of UK Service personnel.

  • 1 March 2003 to 31 March 2017: There were 32 UK Service personnel whose injuries included a traumatic or surgical amputation as a result of injuries sustained in Iraq.

  • 7 October 2001 to 31 March 2017: There were 79 UK Service personnel who sustained a partial or complete limb amputation as a result of injuries sustained in locations other than Afghanistan or Iraq.

  • 7 October 2001 to 31 March 2017: The numbers of UK Service personnel that suffered amputations and have been medically discharged were 211 (73%) from Afghanistan, 16 (50%) from Iraq and 51 (65%) from locations other than Afghanistan and Iraq.

Andy Mudd Credit: Family photo

Former Staff Sergeant Andy Mudd from North Yorkshire, who served in the Royal Military Police between 1974 and 1996, lost both his legs in a bomb attack by the IRA outside his home in Colchester in 1989.

He also lost some of his fingers, but returned to work within seven months and served another seven years.

Car bomb, 1989 Credit: ITV News

He told ITV News day-to-day life has had its challenges, particularly following the passing of his wife, Maggie, 14 years ago.

Declaring that you are physically disabled is a barrier that you don’t want. It’s a mental change, it’s a physical change, change within your family. You’ve got to change your attitude yourself. I found it quite difficult to ask people to do things for me. So if you don’t ask people to do things for you, you then have to struggle.

Staff Sgt Andy Mudd