Work begins on state-of-the-art veterans' health centre at Shropshire hospital

The raising of a new flag and a groundbreaking ceremony have marked the start of work on a new flagship orthopaedic centre for veterans.

A £6 million pioneering facility is being built onsite at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital near Oswestry. Once complete, it will be the UK’s first dedicated orthopaedic centre for Armed Forces veterans.

The hospital initially launched a £1.5 million appeal in October 2018 to build a more modest outpatient facility for veterans, but is now set to boast a state-of-the-art facility thanks to the support of the Shropshire based, Headley Court Charity.

Headley Court, Newport, was the leading medical rehabilitation base for members of the Armed Forces before the building was sold and services transferred to a new facility at Stanford Hall.

Turf cutting ceremony at Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry for the new Veterans Centre at the hospital

The charity has provided a grant of £6 million for the complex, which will be known as the Headley Court Veterans’ Orthopaedic Centre.

Hospital chief executive, Mark Brandreth, said the centre would house nine examination rooms. There will also be clinic rooms, which will also be utilised for Physiotherapy appointments, a treatment and procedure room, an assessment room, and a splinting and therapy room.

"In the main entrance foyer of the centre, there will be a café, as well as a dedicated Veterans’ Hub, where Shropshire Council and military charities will provide support to veterans, their family and friends, in relation to issues that range from homelessness, finance, debt management, welfare, benefits, health and PTSD, to name a few.

Air Vice Marshal Anthony J. Stables cuts the first turf with RJAH trust chairman Frank Collins

"The centre will be built to the highest standards and have a familiar military feel to make veteran patients more comfortable."

It will be build by local company, Pave Aways.

The chairman of the RJAH NHS trust, Frank Collins, said the fundraising had begun with a wonderful, £100,000 pledge from the Leagues of Friends of the Hospital.

Speaking before carrying out the turf cutting ceremony Air Vice Marshal Anthony J. Stables, Chairman of the Headley Court Charity, said that the trustees were delighted to be able to support the build of the centre.

How the Headley Court Veterans' Centre could look.

“Having determined to close the Headley Court Charity, following the move of defence medical rehabilitation from Headley Court to a new facility at Stanford Hall, we sought to fund projects that both had comparable purpose and honoured the legacy of Headley Court – and the Headley Court Veterans’ Orthopaedic Centre absolutely does that."

Others at the ceremony included the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner who described the centre as a remarkable flagship project for Shropshire , and North Shropshire MP, Owen Paterson, who said that it was wonderful that what had started as a modest scheme had grown into the building of a nationally important centre.

Service will be for military and civilians alike

The surgeon who will lead the team at the specialist centre says it will provide a bespoke service where veterans will feel welcome and at ease.

Lieutenant Colonel Carl Meyer, a serving Army Officer, is also a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at RJAH.

He stressed the centre would not only be for military patients but also for civilian patients.

"It will be tailored to our veterans who immediately feel at ease then they already come for treatment at our veterans' hub" he said.

"It is wonderful to see how the camaraderie between military personnel re-surfaces when our veterans come to us for treatment.

"Seeing those who come in for knee and hip operations use the old military banter to support and encourage each other on the wards and to recover more quickly is wonderful.

"Many of them may be in their 70s now but the still have that inter forces rivalry and that can include which one is going to be up on their crutches first."

"They also tend to keep in touch with each when they leave hospital."

He said the service was for patients with a wide range of orthopaedic conditions including hip and knee problems, upper limb issues and spinal injuries.

“Thanks to our strong connections with Shropshire Council and military charities, the hospital is also providing the whole package, in terms of holistic care, providing support for not just the physical injuries but other issues, such as mental health, homelessness, finance, debt management, welfare, and benefits.”

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