Express & Star

Peter Rhodes on “care hotels,” a dedicated doctor and soldiers who refuse to kill

In some NHS regions patients who no longer need hospital treatment but are not yet fit enough to go home are being moved into hotels where they are looked after by a mix of NHS staff and carers from private agencies. And why not? If the boat people landing at Dover qualify for a room in a Novotel or a Hilton, so do NHS patients.

Harry in Afghanistan.

As I reported yesterday some GPs, faced with total ambulance gridlock, are advising their heart-attack patients to catch a bus to hospital. Some, but not all.

One GP told a medical magazine how they used their own car to drive an elderly patient to hospital because “I couldn't sit by and watch someone die.” Good to know there are still doctors like that around.

A veteran of the 1940s Italian campaign once told me how his platoon came upon a retreating German unit. As the Germans poured out of the back door of a farmhouse to safety, a solitary machine-gunner was left behind at the front door to give covering fire. He was only a few hundred yards away from the Brits, a sitting duck for any experienced rifleman. Yet, despite commands from their officer, none of the Tommies would shoot the unsuspecting German. Eventually, a soldier from another battalion did the deed.

It was a bizarre story but it made the point, understood by soldiers, unknown to civilians and always ignored by war movies, that killing another human is a demeaning and distressing business.

In post-combat studies, researchers have found that many soldiers – in some cases up to 70 per cent - never fired their rifles in battle. I have interviewed hundreds of old soldiers and only a handful of those veterans admitted killing anyone. For many soldiers, killing is best avoided and certainly never discussed.

And that's what makes Prince Harry's account of killing 25 Taliban so strange and so disturbing and why it has caused so much bewilderment and anger among the military. Even when the killing is unavoidable, talking about it is plain weird.

Incidentally, it's not only foot soldiers who avoid slaughter. A Spitfire pilot once told me: “In every squadron there were a few natural killers. The rest of us just found a nice big cloud to hide in.”