Freedom of Information requests are often used for all sorts of spurious reasons, many are for things like vehicle history requests* or other trivia but other time sometimes reveal simply staggering information.
Released a week ago was a response to this question;
Could you please supply with numbers of Royal Navy. Army and RAF personnel who are unable to deploy on operations because they have been medically down graded. I would like the numbers of personnel in each service who are currently medically down graded and how many have been downgraded over the last three years.
To tee up the numbers, an explanation of the terminology
Service personnel with medical conditions or fitness issues which affect their ability to perform their duties will generally be referred to a medical board for a medical examination and review of their medical grading. The patient may be downgraded, to allow for treatment, recovery and rehabilitation. Medically downgraded personnel are those personnel who have been assessed by a medical board and subsequently awarded a Medical Deployabilily Standard (MDS) of either Medically Limited Deployable (MLD) or Medically Non Deployable (MND).
Medically Limited Deployable (MLD) personnel are medically fit for duty with minor employment limitations. MLD personnel may have a medical condition or functional limitation that prevents the meeting of all Medically Fully Deployable (MFD) requirements. MLD personnel can undertake full employment with possible limitations on their deployability. Their condition must not be vulnerable to exacerbation due to deployment or impose a constant demand on medical service on exercise or deployment.
Medically Non Deployable (MND) personnel are medically fit for duty with major employment limitations or are medically unfit for Service. MND personnel have a medical condition or functional limitation that prevents the meeting of all MLD requirements. MND personnel are not fit to deploy on Operations but may be deployable on UK based exercises and should be able to work effectively for at least 32.5 hours per week. They may require continued medical care, long term medication and access to secondary care facilities MND personnel become medically unfit for Service if they cannot perform their primary employment with reasonable adaptation, are unable to attend work for 32.5 hours per week, if they are unable to deploy on local exercises or if employment would exacerbate their condition and affect their health. The numbers presented for the period 1 March 2011- 1 February 2014 represent the number of personnel downgraded at least once in this time period, It does not mean that these personnel were downgraded throughout this whole time period. The length of time downgraded can be short term or long term dependent on the individuals’ medical condition(s). The numbers presented as at 1 February 2014 provide the number downgraded at a snapshot in time.
And now for the numbers.
As at 1 February 2014, there were a total of 13,880 UK Armed Forces personnel full time trained and serving against requirement who were graded MLD, of which:
- 1,730 were Naval Service personnel
- 10,710 were Army personnel
- 1,430 were RAF personnel
As at 1 February 2014, there were a total of 14,050 UK Armed Forces personnel full time trained and serving against requirement who were graded MND, of which:
- 2,750 were Naval Service personnel
- 7,750 were Army personnel
- 3,560 were RAF personnel
For the period 1 March 2011 – 1 February 2014, a total of 75,110 UK Armed Forces personnel full time trained and serving against requirement were medically downgraded at least once, of which:
- 13,910 were Naval Service personnel
- 46,470 were Army personnel
- 14,720 were RAF personnel
It personnel are graded both MLD and MND during the period 1 March 2011 – 1 February 2014, they will be counted once in both populations.
For the period 1 March 2011 – 1 February 2014, a total of 41,680 UK Armed Forces personnel full time trained and serving against requirement were graded MLD at least once, of which:
- 5,330 were Naval Service personnel
- 31,440 were Army personnel
- 4,910 were RAF personnel
For the period 1 March 2011 – 1 February 2014, a total of 52,050 UK Armed Forces personnel full time trained and serving against requirement were graded MND at least once, of which:
- 11,640 were Naval Service personnel
- 27,840 were Army personnel
- 12,570 were RAF personnel
It is important to understand the definition of full time trained personnel means.
UK Armed Forces personnel full time trained strength and trained requirement comprises trained UK Regular Forces, trained Gurkhas and elements of the Full Time Reserve Service (FTRS) that may be deployed overseas, including Full Commitment (FC), Limited Commitment (LC), Home Commitment (HC) personnel.
These figures are a snapshot in time and don’t go into detail what categories of medical grading personnel listed as MLD and MND are at, a full description of the different Codes, Categories and Medical Employment Standards, click here
They also fail to list the reasons for medical downgrading, training injuries, injuries sustained from accidents, Afghanistan, illness or other medical conditions.
The other figures show that personnel, of course, enter and leave these categories on a regular basis.
Like all figures, there are figures behind the figures and reasons behind the stories they tell, so, proceed with caution when making sweeping assumptions.
What they do show however, is the sheer numbers of personnel unable to deploy.
When these are compared against trained strength for the same period.
- Naval Service, trained strength, 30,510
- Army, trained strength, 87,270
- Royal Air Force, 33,390
In percentage terms;
- Naval service; MLD 6%, MND 9%
- Army; MLD 12%, MND 9%
- Royal Air Force; MLD 4%, MND 11%
Totting these up shows that at the point at which these figures were published, just under 10% of the British Armed Forces were medically non deployable, 18% either non or limited.
For the Army, over a fifth of its full time trained strength was either medically non deployable or medically limited.
When the full Army 2020 reductions are in place, for example, and making a big assumption that the percentages remain constant (which I think is unlikely) the Army will at full tilt be able to deploy less than 65,000 personnel without restriction. Similar, although slightly smaller, apply to the Royal Air Force and Naval Service.
A decade ago in 1994, the Army trained strength was 123,000, the Naval Service 56,000 and the Royal Air Force 75,000.
* Given the cost of processing FOI requests would it not be worthwhile to just digitise old Army vehicle records, the MERLIN reports FOI requests always want, and put them on a website somewhere?