THE Prime Minister has launched a personal crusade on behalf of a volunteer soldier forced to pay for his own medical treatment following injury in Iraq.

Tony Blair has written to his Defence Secretary to ask him to examine the case of Territorial Army soldier David Corrigan, of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Mr Corrigan tore the cartilage in his left knee while on active duty with the Parachute Regiment, in April 2003.

But because the former TA paramedic is no longer on active service, and has since left the service, the Army stopped paying for his treatment.

The 44-year-old is in constant pain and has had to pay thousands of pounds for surgery, including £2,140 for the latest operation.

The injury also forced him to give up his former job with the North-East Ambulance Service.

Now Mr Corrigan has had his case taken up by his constituency MP, Tony Blair, who has asked Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to ensure TA members who serve in military operations are treated the same as regular soldiers.

Mr Blair's agent, John Burton, said: "His case has raised the whole issue of how TA members are treated when they return from serving in wartime.

"TA members serve their country in the same way as regular soldiers and, if they are injured in conflict, they should receive the same treatment."

Mr Corrigan said: "If they can do it to me, there could be countless soldiers out there in the same situation."

He is now suing the Army for clinical negligence.

A spokesman for the MoD said: "We can confirm that a letter sent from Mr Blair, in his capacity as a constituency MP, has been received by the Defence Secretary.

"The issues raised are currently being investigated."