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Army: Sickle Cell Diseases

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 3136, tabled on 14 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps his Department is taking in response to the coroner's report of 30 December 2019 that linked the deaths of two Army recruits on military exercises to sickle cell anaemia.

Answered on

20 January 2020

The Army takes the safety of applicants and Serving personnel extremely seriously. Following the deaths of two Commonwealth applicants, a version of the NHS Family Origins Questionnaire is now used at assessment centres to screen all candidates. This enables a medical assessment identifying those at risk of Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) with a follow on blood test as necessary. Those who are found to be SCT negative can participate as normal in the Role Fitness Test (Entry) including a 2km run at the assessment centre. Candidates who have passed all other parts of the assessment but who have been identified as SCT positive are offered a tailored pre conditioning course to mitigate against Exertional Collapse Associated to Sickle Cell Trait (ECAST). This process has been developed based on an Evidence-Based Medicine approach drawing on available research and NHS best practice, tempered by best available experience of UK Subject Matter Experts and US Armed Forces. The inquests into the two tragic deaths are yet to take place, but a full response to the Coroner's Prevention of Future Deaths Report is being prepared, which will include direction on identifying and supporting serving military personnel who are as yet undiagnosed as SCT positive.

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