Brits running short on officers, specialist


The Armed Forces are missing thousands of specialised soldiers, sailors and airmen crucial to continuing the fight against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Daily Telegraph has learned.


New figures show an alarming shortage of vital staff, with more than a third of Army medical posts now vacant - leading to fears that lives are being put at risk.

Across the Navy, Army and RAF, experienced personnel are leaving, fed up with the demands of continuous operations and often taking up highly-paid jobs in private security.

There are now only 15 per cent of Navy Harrier pilot instructors left at a time when the aircraft is in constant use in Afghanistan.

Perhaps more worrying - given that the fighting in Helmand is as intense as any the Army has encountered since the Second World War - is the severe lack of medical staff.

One in three posts, from surgeons to anaesthetists in the Army's medical team, are vacant in a unit that is vital in providing staff both on the battlefield and for rehabilitation of the wounded back home.

There is now a dearth of 2,065 medical staff across the services, with more than a quarter of all posts unfilled.

The figures also show a worrying shortage of bomb disposal experts, helicopter pilots and Royal Marines.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, accused the Government of increasingly using the Forces without expanding resources.

"For all Gordon Brown's warm words on the military, the small print is clear: Labour's failure to cut waste and get resources to the front line is putting lives at risk."

The Tories also accused defence ministers of "slipping out" the embarrassing figures shortly before Parliament rose last month. They were given in response to a parliamentary question by Mark Harper, the then shadow defence minister.

The extent of shortages across the Defence Medical Services comes at a time of increasing deaths and injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keeping staff in what is called "pinch-point trades" is now in a vicious cycle. Because the numbers are so short the personnel are being used more often on operations and subsequently becoming disheartened at the amount of time spent away from home.

The military's ability to fight global terrorism is being hampered by an exodus of officers from the Intelligence Corps. One in five left in the past three years, figures showed.

The Tories blamed redundancies since Labour came to power in 1997, with the Armed Forces cut by 30,000 troops at a time when wars were being fought on two fronts.


One of the reasons the Brits cannot get medical staff is socialized medicine. In the US people can be recruited for these positions because they know when they get out they can make a handsome living in the medical profession. That is not so in the UK where the "profession" no longer attracts enough people to staff civilian medical care. That is why the UK found itself the potential victim of jihadi doctors who tried to commit mass murder. Since there is no civilian work to look forward to, there is little reason to join the military even if the government is paying for schooling.

In the other specialties where there is shortage, it would appear that the Brits are not paying enough to stimulate volunteers. They need to look at bonuses for certain areas.

The only way they are likely to cure their medical shortfall is to promise the docs that they can get a job in the US after they finish their service.


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