More Openness in Respect of UK Injuries in Afghanistan

Thursday, September 10th, 2009. 2:24am

A response to a freedom of information request I made to the MoD reveals forty seven UK casualties injured in Afghanistan have suffered a traumatic or surgical amputation.

The response to a freedom of information request I made to the MoD reveals forty seven UK casualties injured in Afghanistan have suffered a traumatic or surgical amputation.

I believe it is very important that the British public, and particularly MPs, are aware of the serious injuries which have been suffered by UK personnel in Afghanistan. We need that information, which shows the intensity and danger of the task being undertaken, to inform our judgement on if UK forces ought be in Afghanistan working on our behalf. The government has been reluctant to be open and transparent about the injuries suffered; preferring to hide the facts from public scrutiny.

Using mySociety’s freedom of information website I asked the Ministry of Defence for details of the types of serious injuries sustained. My request simply stated:

The MoD’s published statistics relating to Operation Herrick (Afghanistan) state that during the period 7 October 2001 to 15 June 2009 210 UK individuals were seriously or very seriously injured. For each of those individuals could you please release brief details of the nature of the injuries sustained.

Initially I, like others who have asked, was told the MoD were unable to provide any breakdown of the serious injuries. I persisted with my request, making an argument for disclosure under the freedom of information act and rejecting attempts by the MoD to designate the information I was seeking as exempt fro the act’s provisions. Following an local “internal review” into the MoD’s response to my request for information the most detailed information on British casualties in Afghanistan available to date has now been released.

The newly released information has been extracted from the Operational Emergency Department Attendance Register (OpEDAR) of the 210 seriously injured causalities 167 had an OpEDAR record.

Table: Afghanistan VSI and SI casualties by OpEDAR treatment classification for 7 October 2001 to 15 June 2009

Classification No.
Orthopedic Fracture/Dislocation 56
Multiple Injuries 42
Surgical 16
Wounds 14
Orthopaedic Soft Tissue Injury 10
Neurology / Neurosurgical 8
Ophthalmology 5
Burns 5
Maxillofacial <5
Medical (Not further specified) <5
Musculoskeletal <5
Respiratory <5

In addition information from the Academic Department of Military Emergency Medicine, at The Royal College for Defence Medicine, has also been released which states:

For the period 7 October 2001 to 15 June 2009, 47 of the 210 VSI and SI casualties suffered a traumatic or surgical amputation ranging from the loss of part of a finger or toe up to the loss of an entire limb(s)

There is a warning though that: “It is possible that some amputees are not listed as VSI or SI [(Very) Seriously Injured] and these have not been included here. ”

During the past 18 months, 37 of the 71 British troops killed are known to have been the victims of roadside bombs or mines, but the number of troops disabled in the attacks has never been fully disclosed.

Figures obtained by The Sunday Times from medical sources show that 37 soldiers suffered “life-changing injuries” between April 2006, when they first deployed to southern Afghanistan, and the end of that year.

There were 55 such injuries during the whole of 2007. Last year the figures more than doubled to 114 and there have been 12 cases this year.

Campaigners claim the MoD is deliberately keeping the human cost of the war out of the public eye.

Source: MoD hides rising injury toll of Taleban bombs – Times February 2009.

Further Information

It is astounding that the MoD still claims not to have basic details of the types of injuries sustained. It appears that it would be unable to answer questions such as : “How many of those injured in Afghanistan have had above the knee amputations of a leg?”. My request has still not been fully answered and additional information may be released in the future as the MoD’s Chief Information Officer and Head Corporate Information is also reviewing the response. I have been told that review will be complete by 9th October 2009.

The full correspondence relating to my request, including the MoD responses, can be viewed on the website : Injuries Sustained in Afghanistan.

My Views

  • I think it is right that the UK is in Afghanistan. It is right to go out and tackle those seeking to commit mass murder on British streets and those who support those people wherever they are in the world.
  • The UK is currently doing more than its share and there is a need to encourage other countries such as France and Germany to make more substantive contributions.
  • The mission in Afghanistan needs to be clearly focused on the security of the UK and its interests and needs to be aimed at leaving the country to be run and secured by its own government, police and army as soon as possible. We should put in whatever is needed in terms of numbers of troops and equipment to get the job done as quickly and safely as possible.
  • We need to ensure that as a nation we are fully fulfilling our obligation to those who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. It is very important that injured service personnel get high quality medical treatment. Care must extend to mental illness and to those, including TA soldiers, who need treatment having left the service.
  • There must be a fair compensation scheme for those who are injured. The disparity between the crazy civilian compensation culture (which I think needs to be curtailed) and what is offered to service personnel needs to be addressed.

Latest Statistics

The latest casualty and fatality statistics published on the MoD website can be obtained via this link. The detail given is less than that shown in the table and text above.

One comment/update on “More Openness in Respect of UK Injuries in Afghanistan

  1. David Vincent

    I am uncomfortable commenting on these matters, as I don’t feel I have enough information. However, I have been reading the first volume of Michael Foot’s biography of Aneurin Bevan and the diaries of Harold Nicholson. What is interesting is that during WWII – at times of real crisis – there were animated debates in the House of Commons between people of substance. Today there is nothing except occasional point scoring. The decline in the calibre of politicians at both national and local level is frightening. And all we do is sneer. It is all very well for us to argue about openness and democracy but it is meaningless if we make it impossible to be a politician. It is the same with social workers. Why would anyone take these jobs if all they can expect is smears and vilification? Yet we complain if we think they are not done properly, and we vote – apparently – for fools or greedy hypocrites. Whar changes do we propose?

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