The Sunday Telegraph

Proposal to merge military’s historic medical units faces backlash

- By Sean Rayment and Genevieve Holl-Allen

DEFENCE chiefs face a backlash over proposals to merge the Army’s four separate medical units into a single regiment, The Telegraph can reveal.

The Royal Army Medical Corps, the Royal Army Dental Corps, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, known as the Army Medical Services, could soon become a single unit.

Opponents have warned that the plans risk creating a “characterl­ess homogenous unit”.

Details of the proposed merger, named Project Victoria, have been revealed in a letter sent to all serving and former members of the regiment on Wednesday. A spokesman for the Army confirmed that “amalgamati­ng parts of Army Medical Services” is being considered, but insisted that “no final decision has yet been made”.

Serving personnel have already said such a move would “backfire”, condemning the plans as a cost-cutting exercise prompted by the Armed Forces’s struggle to recruit medics.

One senior officer said: “These are all very fine and famous regiments with a proud history. They are all distinct organisati­ons with their own character and ethos.

“It seems extraordin­ary to me that the MoD seems to think that the way ahead is to create a characterl­ess homogenous unit. If this is a plan to save money and boost recruiting then it will backfire very badly.”

The Royal Army Medical Corps is one of the British Army’s most historic regiments. Its members have won 29 Victoria Crosses (VC), two of which were with a bar, indicating that the recipient medics won the VC twice.

Merging four medical units into one umbrella organisati­on will mean that rather than four separate headquarte­rs, the new unit will have one. The move would offer the potential to cut costs but one source believes it could lead to “inefficien­cy”.

In a letter, seen by The Telegraph, Brigadier Anthony Finn, the head of

Army Medical Services, said that while planning is at an advanced stage “no decisions have yet been taken”.

He wrote: “We would like to assure everyone with an interest in this process that the needs of our serving community and the views of our veteran communitie­s have been taken into account at all stages through a variety of representa­tives.

“In a rapidly changing context for both defence and healthcare, making sure that we have the right structures and processes in place to care for our patients and support the Army, building on the heritage we share, has been paramount in all our discussion­s.”

He concluded: “You will understand that these decisions do not all rest with us.”

A spokesman for the Army said: “We’re always looking to optimise the Army’s outputs and operationa­l effectiven­ess.

“Considerat­ion is being given to amalgamati­ng parts of Army Medical Services, but no final decision has been made at this time.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom