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Veterans' protest outside PTSD treatment centre hit by health scare

THE organiser of a protest camp run by military veterans suffering post-traumatic stress has been hit by heart problems in the last few days.

Gus Hales, 62, launched the protest with an 18-day hunger strike prior to Remembrance Sunday.

His campaign grew into a unprecedented protest site in Shropshire, with veterans camping outside a PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) treatment centre run by Combat Stress, Britain’s “leading charity for veterans’ mental health.”

Mr Hales had been receiving treatment from Combat Stress until he was discharged without explanation.

When more veterans complained of similar discharges, he set up a protest site against service cuts outside the charity’s Shropshire office.

Mr Hales spent Christmas Day at the protest but was taken ill shortly before New Year’s Eve.

Supporters noticed Mr Hales’s face had a grey complexion and a decision was taken for him to leave the protest site and recuperate.

Mr Hales told the Morning Star that he was suffering from an irregular heartbeat but said he “hopes to get stronger soon.”

He said: “My blood pressure plummeted during the hunger strike, and the weather was really cold. That was the start of the problem.”

Mr Hales has spent the last few days convalescing at his home in Wales and is taking blood thinners to prevent clotting.

“There are still about a dozen veterans at the camp,” he said. “I thought it would end at new year but more people still want to come. We are really growing a movement.”

The next milestone will come on January 10, when Mr Hales is due to meet Veterans Minister Tobias Ellwood in Parliament.

However, Mr Hales is keen for the minister to visit the veterans at the protest camp first.

“We’ve fallen into the idea that they are in power, but they are only in office. We should not have to pay homage to them.”

The Ministry of Defence does not directly deal with veterans’ care and instead the services are outsourced to charities such as Combat Stress.

At least 71 military personnel and veterans took their own lives in 2018, according to research by ITV News.

The Ministry of Defence only agreed to start officially recording the number of suicides by military veterans in November.

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