War hero who lost both legs in Afghanistan accuses NHS of abandoning him

Jay Baldwin, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan
Jay Baldwin, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan - David Rose/David Rose

A war hero who lost both legs fighting in Afghanistan has accused the NHS of abandoning him.

Jay Baldwin, a former Army sergeant, has been refused help with his medical care because one of his operations involved radical new surgery and took place in Australia.

The father of three was seriously wounded and almost died after standing on an improvised explosive device in Helmand, Southern Afghanistan, while taking part in combat operations against the Taliban in January 2012.

He had already completed two tours of Iraq and one in Afghanistan when he was wounded on his second deployment to Helmand. After numerous operations and months of rehabilitation, he underwent revolutionary surgery in Australia, which allowed him to walk again.

Mr Baldwin, 38, who also has three step-children, now needs another operation to enable him to lead a normal life without the use of a wheelchair, but has been told by the NHS that he may have to wait years before he will get the surgery that will allow him to walk again.

A letter sent to him by NHS England, which has been seen by The Telegraph, states that the department is unable to give him a date for his surgery.

After he was wounded, Mr Baldwin, who served with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, underwent a process called osseointegration, where an implant is placed into the leg, allowing a prosthetic limb to be attached.

Jay Baldwin in Afghanistan
Jay Baldwin in Afghanistan

In 2015, the procedure was only available in Australia and the £110,000 cost of the operation was paid for by his former regiment.

But in 2019 he developed lymphoma, a form of cancer, and had to undergo chemotherapy. While he was receiving treatment for the disease, he developed a serious infection that meant that the implant had to be removed or he faced losing the remainder of his leg and potentially his life.

Doctors told Mr Baldwin 18 months ago that the implant can be refitted, but the NHS has refused to allow the operation to go ahead.

The former soldier said: “The NHS’s refusal to help has left me feeling very low. This has had a significant impact on my mental health.

“I don’t think I’ve actually felt as bad as I do now since I was wounded – I feel completely abandoned. Back then, I had the full support of the Army to help me. Now I really feel on my own. The last 18 months have also taken its toll on my family. I’m sure I’m not the only wounded veteran who feels let down by the government.

“I am now wheelchair bound and I have put on three stone in weight. I am not paralysed, but because of this bureaucratic nightmare I have been left in a wheelchair.

“I served my country and put my life on the line. I almost died and I have never complained about my treatment until now. I’m not asking for much – none of this is my fault. The procedure worked brilliantly for me and I had a new life after losing my legs. Then I got cancer and fought that. Now I feel as though I have been completely abandoned.”

Mr Baldwin, who joined the Princess of  Wales’s Royal Regiment in January 2004, aged 17, said: “The Army was my life. I just got the bug for it. I loved my job as a sergeant, I loved the responsibility of managing people.”

Jay Baldwin in Afghanistan
Jay Baldwin in Afghanistan before he was wounded

Mr Baldwin was wounded on Jan 31 2012. He said: “There was a massive explosion, and I was blown onto my back. At first I thought we had come into contact with the enemy and I tried to get up.

“That’s when I saw that my legs had gone. The blast had cauterised the wounds, so there wasn’t that much blood. At that very moment I realised my life was going to be very different.

“Very quickly, there were people around me – members of my platoon. I could see by the look on their faces that it was bad.  A female medic appeared and I asked her to check that my genitals were still intact. She put her hand down my trousers, did a quick check and said “don’t worry, you’re ok” – that was a massive relief.”

After the blast, members of his platoon carried him on a stretcher to a safe area before he was loaded onto a US Blackhawk helicopter and flown into Bastion hospital.

He said: “I was later told that the Taliban found one of my legs and hung it in a tree as a sign of victory – that was very hard for me to accept.”

He added: “ All I want is to quite literally be given the help to get back on my feet again and feel like I’m a useful member of society.”

An NHS spokesman said: “It is important that rare services such as osseointegration have sufficient evidence to be safely commissioned on the NHS, and that is why the NHS is assessing if a new policy is required.

“The NHS is committed to ensuring that our veterans get the care and support they need, and so if anyone has any health concerns, please contact your GP.”