Niall Jones, age 21 from Shropshire, applied to join the Royal Marines a little over a year ago. It had always been a dream career of his, so was highly motivated to put all of his effort into training to be as prepared as much as possible to become a Royal Marines Commando - to receive the coveted green beret.
He had minor psoriasis for a few years which had never hindered his efforts in anything he’s done prior. Niall said that ‘anyone who has the skin condition will tell you that it isn’t nice to have but you have no choice but to crack on regardless, which for most people - myself included - hasn’t been a problem.’
Niall’s medical records have been scrutinised against the JSP 950 tri-service medical standards. In Niall’s case, the medical standards state that candidates who have active psoriasis are graded UNFIT if it covers more than 5% of the body’s surface area. This doesn’t apply to Niall’s case.
The medical standards continue to state that candidates are regarded as FIT if ‘the disease has not involved hands and/or feet’ or ‘would not affect the ability to wear military clothing or the ability to operate military equipment.’ Again, neither of these gradings apply. Niall is currently a mechanic and has been since he left school over five years ago. He declared ‘My skin condition does not affect me at work and I still continue a high performing employee in the business I work for.’
However, the use of systemic agents does equal a bar to entry. Niall has used steroid creams in the past but stated ‘I have heard that there are many people already serving in the forces that have psoriasis and are still allowed to remain, so I was shocked to find out that I was barred from entry because I have it. I have medicated with steroid creams which is also a bar to entry, but if I didn’t use the steroids, my skin would develop small red patches which would change nothing about me physically other than the way I look. It wouldn’t affect my ability to do the job at all.’
He continued ‘It is very frustrating that what I see as a small defect, that has no affect on my physical capability, has stopped me from obtaining my dream career.’ Niall regularly keeps fit by running a lot, attending the gym 5 nights a week and enjoys mountain climbing to maintain and improve his fitness.
This comes at a time when almost every armed services is under strength. Some army infantry battalions are under strength 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 armed forces personnel recruitment gap.
Niall 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.’
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 armed forces with manageable medical conditions. The same is apparent in Niall’s case as it doesn’t appear to have any affect his in his ability to train or operate effectively. Niall is fit, suitable and super keen to start his career in the Royal Marines. I believe that he needs to be able to prove his capabilities during the 32 week commando training course as opposed to facing an instant blanket ban.’