'Gus's plight won't happen again' says minister

A minister has pledged that the suffering experienced by Falklands veteran Gus Hales will never happen again, after the matter was raised in Parliament.

Jim Davidson chats with Gus Hales during his protest
Jim Davidson chats with Gus Hales during his protest

Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, questioned defence minister Tobias Ellwood about Mr Hales' plight in the House of Commons this week.

Mr Ellwood was taken to hospital after staging a hunger strike outside the Combat Stress charity in Newport.

Mr Hales, from Builth Wells, was staging his protest to demand better mental health support for Army veterans.

He claims he was wrongly discharged by the charity, which provides support for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, in 2015.

Mark Pritchard

Mr Hales was forced to call of his hunger strike on November 18, after being taken dangerously ill.

He initially staged a two-week hunger strike outside Combat Stress, which ended on Armistice Day, but later resumed his protest.

He was visited on three occasions by the comedian and forces' campaigner Jim Davidson, and after he was taken to hospital Mr Hales' supporters took it in turns to take his place outside the charity.

Mr Pritchard asked Mr Ellwood how the Ministry of Defence, working with Combat Stress, could to more to ensure that Mr Hales got the treatment he needed and deserved.

Gus Hales staging his protest

Mr Ellwood said he had spoken to both Mr Pritchard and the charity.

"We need to make sure that people like Gus, who have served this country, are looked after," he said.

"I will make sure this isn't repeated, and working with Combat Stress, will make sure his needs are looked after."

Mr Davidson, who runs the Care after Combat veterans charity, said he was trying to help 62-year-old Mr Hales get the support he needed.

But he said he hoped it did not put people off using or supporting military charities.

"We have limited resources and everybody is trying their best," he said.

"They will listen to what Gus has to say, and I’ve been telling Gus to listen to what they say as well.”

He said he hoped people would continue to use Combat Stress if they needed to, despite the protest.

“The fear is that it will stop veterans with Mental Health issues coming forward for Combat Stress,” he said.

“I hope the charity and Gus have a chat, that Gus goes home and we can move forward. Gus wants an independent inquiry into Combat Stress, and I’m sure they would welcome that.”

Mr Pritchard has backed Mr Hales' call for a a public inquiry into the Combat Stress charity. "I am supporting Gus's call for an independent inquiry and have written to the Ministry of Defence and Combat Stress urging them to undertake the inquiry," he said.

"Gus can be proud of himself, raising this issue to national prominence."

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