Chris Watson, from South Shields in Tyne and Wear, was rejected from joining 8 Rifles Reserve Light Infantry Battalion for an old broken bone injury in his foot from almost 6 years ago. This is despite Chris keeping fit regularly by attending the gym 4 times a week and running half-marathons with no issues.
In a letter from a Capita Medical Officer, Chris was told ‘you do not meet the current medical entry standard for the Army and therefore you are not eligible for military service.’
The doctor was referring to the tri-service JSP 950 medical standards which outline medical restrictions for all of Britain’s armed services.
The letter continued to state that the reason for the decision was for a fracture to his metatarsal bone in his right foot in 2013.
However, the medical standards state in the Musculoskeletal section applicable to Chris’s case that ‘For those with normal function and with no deformity, a period of at least 12 months must have elapsed since the fracture before selection.’
This states that Chris’s old injury should be redundant. He has participated in the Great North Run twice since the injury and Chris even had it checked recently by his GP who confirmed there are no current issues.
Chris, age 33, is stunned by the response from the army and stated ‘It really is both disappointing and annoying as I know there is no reason why I couldn't serve and pass any physical tests required. I thought the army would have at least examined my foot and maybe put me through some tests to gauge the condition of my old injury instead of instantly obstructing me from service.’
This comes at a time when almost every infantry battalion is under strength and the civilian recruitment company, Capita, is coming under intense scrutiny from MPs 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.
Mark Francois MP, the former Armed Forces Minister, told The Times that medical standards need to be understood at a different level: ’We should interpret them more intelligently, particularly for people who have minor ailments that they manage successfully in everyday civilian life…’
Chris and many others in his 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.’
When asked about the campaign, Chris stated ‘I think it is a very important campaign, highlighting a serious issue that is pretty much going un-noticed. The MOD are turning away potentially 1000's of perfectly able men and women for minor reasons. I hope this campaign can make a difference and I will be giving it my full support.’
The founder of the Right To Fight campaign, a recruit rejected from the Special Forces for a food allergy, stated ‘Too many people come to us after being rejected from the army with manageable medical conditions. If Chris can manage his old foot injury and prove so by being given a chance to complete infantry training, then all the better for him and for the army. We need to put pressure on the key decision makers to get the medical policy changed. People like Chris, who are super keen, ready and fit, are the solution to the continuing recruitment crisis’.