SOLDIERS injured in Iraq are receiving "insufficient care" because the Ministry of Defence has lost track of what happened to them, a leaked report to the head of the army has revealed.
The classified report, for General Sir Mike Jackson, also reveals that soldiers are regarded as a lower priority for treatment by the NHS than are civilians. It says some soldiers were upset to have received a letter which they understood to instruct them not to make further contact with their own units.
The report says "units are still finding it difficult to track casualties, both in and out of theatre [Iraq]". It adds: "There were examples of TA [Territorial Army] and regular soldiers receiving insufficient care because their unit did not know where they were."
Military medical staff have expressed concern that soldiers sent back from Iraq for treatment in NHS hospitals are losing out to civilians.
The report says: "Soldiers [including doctors] from medical units backed up a perception that we were not getting the best out of our relationship with the NHS." It adds that the MoD was "in effect accepting a lower priority [for soldiers]" and that if they received a higher priority for treatment they could be returned to action more quickly and "would feel more valued by society".
The revelations come as the government faces fresh accusations that it has covered up the true extent of the casualties sustained by British forces in Iraq since the war started in 2003.
A series of reports in The Scotsman has already forced the MoD to admit the casualty figures presented to parliament are inaccurate and many more soldiers have been injured than has been officially reported.
Now an investigation by the Channel 4's Dispatches programme has produced further evidence that the figures have been underplayed.
The MoD has consistently claimed that it only has figures for casualties treated at the Shaibah field hospital, near Basra, but the programme cited leaked reports from two other field hospitals which proved that comprehensive records had been kept for other facilities.
The programme, aired last night, also claimed soldiers wounded in Iraq had been warned they would suffer "consequences in medical treatment" if they talked publicly about the problems they had faced in seeking treatment for their injuries.
The MoD has stuck by the claim made by John Reid, the then defence secretary, that only 230 troops had been injured in combat by the end of 2005. Yesterday, it again insisted that it published the most up-to-date available figures on casualties.
A spokesman said: "We understand the public interest in our casualty statistics - but the most important thing is the world-class healthcare we provide to each wounded service man or woman. Providing them with the best possible treatment has and always will be our priority."