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Falklands' veteran wins mental health care battle

Wednesday, November 7th 2018 - 08:58 UTC
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Ex-paratrooper Gus Hales, 62, launched his protest over the “disgraceful” lack of mental health care for former soldiers Ex-paratrooper Gus Hales, 62, launched his protest over the “disgraceful” lack of mental health care for former soldiers

The Daily Express has reported that a Falklands' veteran who went on hunger strike in protest at the treatment of ex service men has won a victory after the former head of the British Army intervened in the case. Ex-paratrooper Gus Hales, 62, launched his protest over the “disgraceful” lack of mental health care for former soldiers and the prosecutions that are being brought against those who have served in Northern Ireland.

A piece written by David Pilditch says that a week after the Daily Express first highlighted his protest, Mr Hales' former troop commander General Sir Peter Wall, president of veterans' charity Combat Stress, pledged to review cases of former service members treated for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Sir Peter, the Chief of the General Staff until 2014, visited and handed a letter to Mr Hales, on the seventh day of his protest, apologizing for his treatment. The visit came ahead of a rally by more than 100 former servicemen.

Mr Hales called Sir Peter “brilliant” and said his letter had “gone a long way” to help.

The ex-sergeant has vowed to continue his protest until Remembrance Day next Sunday, which this year coincides with Armistice Day.

In his letter to Mr Hales, Sir Peter said: “I would like to acknowledge the admiration you are attracting for your brave and highly-visible media campaign to draw attention to the plight of veterans with mental ill-health from their military service.

In this respect our goals as a charity are very closely aligned with yours. We fully support your points about the need for services to better coordinated and joined up; also for more resources to offer better support to the significant number of older veterans as well as those from more recent and equally hardfought campaigns.”

Mr Hales began his hunger strike on October 29 and defense chiefs were said to be “highly embarrassed” amid the run-up to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which saw the end of the First World War.

He has been living in a tent outside the Combat Stress Audley Court treatment centre in Newport, Shropshire. Married father-of-one Mr Hales received treatment for PTSD at the centre for many years, but said his support was axed abruptly in 2016.

Discharged Combat Stress acknowledged it had fallen “well short of accepted practice” in the case. Mr Hales had been discharged without a medical plan and formal record being completed and the charity said its review would identify any other veterans who may have been improperly discharged.

Sir Peter told the Daily Express: “We apologized unreservedly for the way in which he was treated. The processes that should have been gone through for a clinical discharge were not gone through.

”We accepted his challenge to conduct a review to make sure that anybody else in a similar position is caught by a safety net and offered the treatment they might need.“ Mr Hales said: ”I feel the general was brilliant and his letter has gone a long way in resolving my grievance with Combat Stress.

“The Government has a duty of care, but the fact is the soldiers get farmed out to charities and the charities struggle.

”They often don't have the funds because they are put in a position where they have to pick the best thing they have to do with the cash, and Northern Ireland and Falklands veterans have been cast aside.“

Mr Hales joined the Army at 18 in 1976, signing up with 9 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers. Sir Peter was his commander in Belize.

A Government spokesman said: ”We take the mental wellbeing of our serving and former personnel extremely seriously and encourage anyone struggling to come forward and access the care they deserve.”

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