Birmingham hospital bosses hit back today over allegations from the BNP that injured troops were forced to pay to watch television
The claim was made by BNP leader Nick Griffin as he attempted to justify his wearing of a poppy against the wishes of the Royal British Legion during a televised debate. He said he would remove the poppy if the Legion put pressure on the Government to stop “charging young British soldiers with no legs in Selly Oak Hospital” to watch TV. But today the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, based at Selly Oak, insisted routine TV charges which applied to the hospital’s civilian patients were not paid by troops.
Spokesman Peter Haslam said the charges were instead met by a patient welfare fund, a registered charity providing such things as Sunday lunches and trips to football matches. Mr Haslam said: “A patient welfare fund at Selly Oak purchases TV cards and military patients are given £10 credit for every three days and additionally they get a pay-as-you-go dongle for their laptop. If a patient uses up money and has to pay out of their own pocket, they are reimbursed.”
Mr Griffin’s comments were made on Channel 4 News on Tuesday. He is tonight due to be a guest on the BBC’s Question Time programme with his invitation condemned by anti-fascist activists who were staging a day-long picket of Television Centre. Michael Morris, the Legion’s county manager, said he was unable to comment on political issues but said: “It’s disappointing that anything like this will be contentious, especially so close to the launch of this year’s Poppy Appeal. Nothing should detract attention from that as it is supporting our troops serving abroad.”
The Birmingham Mail contacted BNP spokesman Simon Darby who said he believed the injured troops did have to pay for television and phone calls in the past. “If the hospital have changed their policy then that is a good thing.” He refused to comment on whether Mr Griffin would continue to wear a poppy. Birmingham’s Poppy Appeal is due to be launched by Lord Mayor Coun Michael Wilkes in Victoria Square tomorrow from 12.30pm.