A candidate who wishes to join the Army as an officer has been rejected over questionable medical reasons.
The candidate, who wishes to remain anonymous, applied in May 2018 to join the Army with the intention of attending officer training at the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst after university.
Whilst at university, the candidate passed a medical examination during the process of joining the University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) in September 2018. Surprisingly, UOTC applicants go through the same exacting medical standards as the regular Army even though they will never deploy on operations.
However, during the medical examination, a red flag was raised when the evaluating doctor took note that the candidate had a chest infection two years prior and an inhaler was prescribed - the same inhaler model used to treat asthma.
The strict JSP 950 tri-service medical standards state that those who have a history of asthma must be at least 4 years free of it at the time of joining any of the British armed forces, including the UOTC. The candidate did have asthma, over 15 years ago, but this was not what created the red flag. It was the chest infection.
It was requested that the candidate conducts a month of peak flow tests through the form of a diary. This doctor’s response came as a shock as the candidate doesn’t currently or hasn’t ever suffered from asthma.
The candidate, who keeps fit by regularly attending the gym and doing 5km runs, had a chest infection in their first year of study at university. After seeing a doctor, who had little to no hesitation, prescribed them with an inhaler which ended up on their permanent medical history. The candidate explained ‘The doctor I saw appeared to be almost handing them (inhalers) out like sweets. If I knew it would have any impact whatsoever on my Army application, I would have insisted not to have it and requested other treatment or no treatment at all. I could have lived without it. The inhaler was prescribed to me to make my life easier over the short term. I was totally unaware of the long term consequences it would have on my career aspirations.’
Throughout a peak flow test, an asthmatic’s daily results would typically rise and fall as lung capacity is measured each day. The candidate obtained no such varying patterns, was medically passed by the doctor and could continue with the UOTC.
The candidate was attested, they trained with the unit regularly and had been on exercise with no issues.
However in February, the candidate received a letter from Capita doctors who were reviewing the candidate’s Sandhurst application from May. It detailed that the candidate could no longer continue with their application for the Army after university because of the noted asthma inhaler. The letter continued by stating that the candidate may not continue with the UOTC at the present time either even though the candidate didn’t fall ill, hadn’t needed to stop during any of the training exercises or had to receive special treatment at any time. They are in great physical shape.
This illogical medical rejection comes at a time when almost every infantry battalion in the Army is under strength, some by up to 50%. The civilian recruitment company, Capita, is coming under intense scrutiny from MPs at the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee for not being able to bridge the Army personnel recruitment gap. The Army’s overall troop strength dropped for an eighth year in a row, party to do with blanket bans on manageable medical conditions.
The candidate and many others in their position have joined a campaign called Right To Fight which aims to change the armed forces medical policy to make ‘the medical standards fairer, more accessible and realistic whereby each recruit is judged on their personal attributes, life experience and the ability to operate effectively.’
The founder of the Right To Fight campaign, a recruit rejected from the Special Forces for a food allergy, stated ‘This candidate is super ambitious and enthusiastic about joining the Army. It appears nonsensical that they have not been allowed to join as the medical ailment Army doctors are suggesting is redundant… doubly so as they can not continue with UOTC. The Army needs to take a more intelligent approach to recruiting personnel, especially as they are crying out for recruits across all departments.’
When asked about the current military recruitment crisis, the candidate commented ‘I believe the current recruitment process is flawed and relies largely on blanket bans on medical conditions, without taking into account how these issues currently affect the person involved, and therefore their ability to perform the role. The automatic black-and-white dismissal of certain conditions, many of which seem to be unrelated to job and athletic performance, surely hinders the Army as a whole, deterring countless otherwise ideal applicants with real potential. At a time when the Army is failing consistently year-on-year to attract recruits, it seems bizarre that such a high proportion are turned away for such minor issues - obviously there needs to be standards in place, but a review of the current system seems massively overdue.’
They continued ‘I believe the Right to Fight campaign is playing an important role to push for a much needed reform of the current standards. Pressure needs to be put on those in charge to allow those with a passion and a capability to serve to be recognised and considered predominantly based on their current ability to perform a role.’
The candidate is currently appealing the medical rejection through official channels with evidence from a GP to state that they do not have asthma in any form which is also backed up by evidence from private health care professionals.