Soldiers' treatment time delays denied by Welsh government

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Media captionThere is a debate over whether the surgeon general should answer questions in the assembly

Claims that soldiers wait longer for treatment in Wales than elsewhere in the UK have been denied by the Welsh government.

It comes after the Sun on Sunday reported the armed forces' most senior medical officer wants wounded soldiers to be moved to England for treatment.

It has led to calls for the UK surgeon general to explain more in the Senedd.

The UK defence secretary's spokesman also told BBC Wales soldiers should be moved if they need to get treatment.

But Wales Health and Social Care Committee chair David Rees AM said evidence was "anecdotal".

According to the Sun on Sunday, Surgeon General Air Marshal Paul Evans told a meeting of a joint health and defence ministry board that troops in Wales face longer waiting times than elsewhere.

BBC Wales has seen some details of the minutes of the meeting "in relation to ensuring 'no disadvantage' for serving personnel across each part of the UK".

Care system

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams, a member of the assembly's health committee, wants the surgeon general to be called before assembly members.

But committee chair Mr Rees told BBC Wales' Sunday Supplement programme the information was "anecdotal" and he was not aware of such issues.

The Labour AM said Welsh government policy prioritised care of soldiers.

Mr Rees was asked whether he would consider calling the surgeon general to give evidence to the committee in Cardiff Bay.

Although he did not rule it out he said it was more the committee's role to scrutinise Welsh government.

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Media captionVale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns says Welsh soldiers deserve prompt treatment and anything less was a "scandal"

A spokesman for First Minister Carwyn Jones said soldiers "deserve better than being used as a political football by the coalition government".

"The first minister of Wales is absolutely furious about this and will be demanding an investigation by the UK's top civil servant into this attempt to politicise the MoD," said the spokesman.

But Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar, Conservative AM for Clwyd West, said: "It's further evidence of problems in the Welsh NHS that need to be addressed and, given the important role that service men and women play, it's only right that the health committee ought to take some evidence on this to get to the bottom of the problem and help to put it right."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "It is inaccurate and totally misleading to suggest military personnel in Wales are waiting longer than the rest of the UK.

"Discussion at this meeting was actually around issues experienced when military personnel and their families transfer to other parts of the UK as part of their military career and then enter a different health care system.

"We fully agree with the surgeon general's comments that no personnel from across the UK should be disadvantaged in receiving care.

"We have an agreement in place to ensure this and will continue to work with other parts of the UK to deliver on it."

A spokesman for UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond said: "The defence secretary backs the surgeon general in moves to get soldiers access to NHS treatment."

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