On 12 September 2023, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs hosted a meeting to interrogate the evidence around Gulf War Illnesses.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, The Rt Hon Johnny Mercer MP convened a group of clinicians, leading-academics and veteran experts to interrogate the evidence around Gulf War Illnesses and to explore options for further work.
Experts from King’s College London, Newcastle University, the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress and NHS England discussed the existing and international body of evidence on Gulf War Illness, and how this can best inform treatment for veterans with service-related conditions.
The Minister sought advice on a number of specifics commonly raised by campaign groups, including vaccines, chemical weapons, and munitions. Based on a thorough review of the latest data and evidence, the group concluded that the current available research still does not yet identify a specific cause for Gulf War Illnesses.
There was unanimous agreement that the most impactful way to support Gulf War veterans with adverse health conditions is for them to present to their GP to seek appropriate treatment for their symptoms. It was noted that their GP could, if appropriate, refer them onto further support, for example via Op RESTORE or Op COURAGE, if they live in England.
The Minister confirmed that existing policy already entitles those who are ill as a result of their service in the Gulf to be eligible to apply for a War Pension.
The Minister gained agreement from the group to meet annually to ensure that new evidence continues to be considered in the future.
Experts present at the meeting:
- Antony Baines OBE – Executive Director of Services, Royal British Legion
- Professor Peter Blain CBE – Emeritus Professor
- Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Newcastle University
- Dr Anne Braidwood CBE – Medical Advisor to Chief of Defence People
- Professor Neil Greenberg – Professor of Defence Mental Health, King’s College London, Former Royal Naval Clinician
- Professor Edgar Jones – Professor in the History of Medicine & Psychiatry, King’s College London,
- Dr Jonathan Leach OBE – NHS England Associate Medical Director for Armed Forces Former Army Clinician
- Professor Dominic Murphy – Head of Research Combat Stress
- Professor Sir Simon Wessley – Co Director of the KCMHR and formerly the Director of the PHE NIHR Health Protection Unit for Emergency Response and Preparedness
Office for Veterans’ Affairs and The Rt Hon Johnny Mercer MP
3 October 2023