His family has been a part of the British armed forces since the 1800’s, but Luke Potts from Essex will not be able to follow in his family’s footsteps or achieve his childhood dream of joining the Royal Marines because of a nut allergy.
He initially applied for the Royal Marines aged 17 where he passed all of the written tests and interviews but he was told that his application could go no further when asked if he carried an epipen - which he was advised to do on a precautionary basis by his doctor. This is because of the ‘JSP 950’ tri-service medical policy which states that all allergies, especially concerning the carry of an epipen, are a blanket medical ban. Childhood dream over.
Luke, now age 20, has been retested by the way of skin-prick and blood tests, all showing a slight reaction to cashew nut only. He stated ‘I have never had to use the epipen and it is currently out of date … which shows how worried I am about my allergy!’.
Luke then found himself working a desk job in the City which over-looked the Honourable Artillery Company, an army reserves regiment. Although he wished to pursue his dream career as a Royal Marine further down the line, and thinking the strict medical policies only applied to elite units like the Marines, he applied for the army reserves in May 2017 - only to be rejected for the second time. He received his rejection via email. Luke was not allowed to join on the grounds of having ‘one or more disqualifying medical conditions’ and would not be able to take his application any further.
Luke wishes to ultimately join the Royal Marines because the arduous training course appeals to him. Royal Marine training lasts for 32 weeks and is the longest basic military training course in NATO. Another drive to join is to follow his family members into the British armed forces who, since 1854, have served in the Royal Logistics Corps, Royal Signals Regiment and the SOE (Special Operations Executive) which later became MI6.
A campaign launched this month, Right To Fight, which is lead by an SAS recruit with similar circumstances. The campaign aims to change the British Armed Forces medical policy by making 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.
The SAS recruit, who also suffers from a nut allergy, stated that, ‘Each year, 14,000 applicants are rejected over medical restrictions and the Commons Defence Committee were told in 2018 that the army had 77,000 fully trained troops compared with a target of 82,500. Considering that the army is 5,500 troops lower from where it needs to be, surely they would be able to find those missing troops out of the thousands it rejects each year for medical ailments, simply by re-evaluating their medical policy? This lift on blanket bans would benefit the Royal Marines as well by allowing strong applicants such as Luke into their ranks to be deployed overseas.’
When Luke was asked what he thought of the current armed forces recruitment crisis, he stated ‘It’s shocking. People like myself are trying to enter the armed forces but it seems like they (the MOD) are trying to recruit people who don’t want to be there. I’m confident that through the pressure caused by the Right to Fight campaign that the medical policies can be changed for the better’.
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.
Unfortunately, Luke being rejected from the forces isn't an isolated case. Read Michael's Story