Headley Court

Defence written statement – made on 6th May 2008.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I am pleased to inform the House of the outcomes of our review of Defence Medical Rehabilitation. The review concluded that Defence Medical Rehabilitation is a success story, returning service personnel, whenever possible, to full fitness faster than in the past.

The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court is widely recognised as delivering first-class specialist rehabilitation of complex cases. The enormous benefit of bringing together service personnel, both those wounded on operations and those injured in training, contributes to the astonishing recovery that so many of our patients make.

The Government recognise that continuing investment is needed to ensure that Headley Court retains its reputation as a centre of excellence.

With the increase in the numbers and complexity of military casualties over recent years, we have steadily enhanced DMRC's capabilities:

We now have our own workshops and technicians to provide a "state of the art" limb fitting service, enabling us to start to mobilise patients who have lost limbs as soon as they arrive at DMRC and to make adjustments to their prostheses as required.

We have increased the numbers of therapists and nurses and introduced a new team to deal with head injuries, working closely with partner organisations.

We have deployed physiotherapists into Iraq and Afghanistan to assess patients' needs and start treatment, where appropriate, in advance of their arrival at Headley Court.

Last May we opened a new temporary ward annexe, providing 30 additional beds and giving us a total of 66 ward beds.

Headley Court benefits from the use of a hydrotherapy pool and four gyms on site.

We are building this year a new 58-bed temporary accommodation block, at a cost of about £4 million—work on site is due to start today.

Our review has confirmed that the DMRC Headley Court should continue to be the specialist centre for rehabilitation, and has recommended further improvements so that it can continue to deliver first-class care.

In the light of the review we have now decided to invest an additional £24 million in the Headley Court site over the next four years to maintain and enhance DMRC's capabilities. This will enable us to:

replace the new ward annex (designed to be a temporary structure) by extending the Peter Long Unit, and incorporating into that extension an expanded prosthetics facility, treatment areas, and imaging facilities. replace progressively over the next few years all the existing 180 non-ward bed patient and staff accommodation.

I pay tribute to the charitable bodies that have also contributed to the work of DMRC and its predecessor organisations since Headley Court first opened its doors to RAF patients shortly after the second world war. The estate is owned by a charitable trust, which has itself contributed generously to the improvement of facilities on the site.

The Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Family Association has purchased a house in nearby Ashtead that was opened earlier this year as a "home from home" for families visiting patients at Headley Court, supplementing accommodation that we had already provided on site.

Last year a new charity, Help for Heroes, generously offered to raise funds for a swimming pool and gym, which would together form a new rehabilitation complex, with additional space for rehabilitation and assessment. The charity has already made impressive progress in its fund-raising. We are working closely with Help for Heroes in planning the new facility.

We warmly welcome the contributions of charities to the welfare of the services. Support for them enables the public to demonstrate their appreciation for the work of the armed forces in tangible ways.

The new investment I have announced today, together with current funding for new facilities, means that Headley Court will see investment over the next four years totalling some £28 million in addition to the substantial funding that Help for Heroes intends to provide for the new rehabilitation complex.

Our review also looked at the Services' Primary Care Rehabilitation Facilities (PCRFs) and Regional Rehabilitation Units (RRUs). The review recommended enhancements to the permanent capability of RRUs, and improvements to the referrals process. The roles and locations of some of the RRUs should be adjusted to align better with current and future population centres. I have agreed that we should provide an additional £1.5 million per year from financial year 2009-10 to establish the necessary permanent manning uplifts at the RRUs, and commissioned further work to take forward the other recommendations.

The outcomes of the review demonstrate our commitment to rehabilitation. The review charts the strategic direction we shall now follow, to build on our success to date in returning service personnel to mobility and usually to duty. In partnership with the charity sector, we are ensuring that service patients, particularly those severely wounded on operations, receive the best treatment that is available and that it is delivered in an environment that supports their rehabilitation in every way possible.

Our servicemen and women deserve no less for the efforts that they are making on our behalf.

I shall place a copy of the review's top level report and recommendations in the Library of the House.