Michael Wilson, from Rutherglen near Glasgow, has always wanted to be in the British army for as long as he could remember and jumped at the chance to join shortly after his 16th birthday with the intention of fulfilling his childhood dream.
During the application process to join, he was asked a series of medical questions. One of which was if he had an allergy, which is currently a blanket bar to service in the Army, RAF, Royal Navy and the Royal Marines - this applies to all roles including desk jobs.
Michael did declare his allergy, which is so weak that it doesn’t even require him to carry an epipen. He had one mild reaction over a decade ago and hasn’t needed to think about his allergy since. He stated ‘I think that rejecting people with mild allergies is absurd! I also can’t make sense of it as the army website states that a ‘severe’ allergy would stop me from joining. My allergy isn’t severe’.
Michael wanted to join the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards as he feels that ‘I would actually be making a difference due to how the the regiment specialises in reconnaissance. Without reconnaissance, troops would be going into hostile environments with little to no information on enemy positions’.
When declining Michael's application, the outsourced Capita recruitment team was following the JSP 950 Tri-Service medical standards which state: ‘The nature of Military Service is such that it is not possible to guarantee an individual’s ability to self-police an allergy’ and that ‘it is not entirely possible to predict the severity of subsequent reactions based on previous history’.
JSP 950 is designed around the statement that ‘army personnel need to be physically and mentally fit enough to train, serve and fight anywhere in the world.’ Along side declaring his allergy, Michael declared his travel throughout Europe and the fact that he has been studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 6 years to prove his suitability.
As allergies are on a rapid increase throughout the UK; where 20% of the population suffer from at least one allergy - and throughout Europe where it is estimated that half of the entire EU population will develop an allergy by 2025 - there has been a call from those affected to change the British armed forces strict medical policy as the nationwide recruitment crisis is still looming.
A campaign launched this month called Right To Fight. It is lead by an SAS recruit, who also has a nut allergy, who aims to change the British Armed Forces medical policy. The campaign aims 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 - no matter the medical condition.
When Michael was asked what he thought of the current armed forces recruitment crisis, he stated ‘Honestly I find the new recruitment adverts cringe worthy. The army wants to have a regular force of 82,000 by 2020 and a reserve force of 30,000 by the same year. They have missed their target to recruit new soldiers by an average of 30% every year since 2012. I believe that looking over the medical standards and bringing them up to date would greatly benefit the army. With regards to the Right to Fight campaign, I feel relieved and hopeful that someone is finally trying to do something about the situation that myself and many others are in.’
The SAS recruit stated that ‘The Right To Fight campaign hopes that others who are affected by the armed forces strict medical policies will come forward to share their story today to help people like myself and Michael to put pressure on the decision makers to get the medical policy changed for the better’.
Unfortunately, Michael being rejected from the forces isn't an isolated case. Read Luke's Story