Legion calls on Government to act on Gulf War illnesses

The Royal British Legion today called on the government to invest in research to improve the lives of the 33,000 UK veterans estimated to be suffering from Gulf War Illnesses.

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Sunday 17 January 2016 marks 25 years since the start of UK active combat operations in the Persian Gulf, when in 1991, the British Armed Forces first targeted Iraqi airbases. Operation Granby concluded on 28 February of that same year, and in total 53,462 members of the British Armed Forces were deployed.

2013 figures from the then Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) showed there were 9,603 veterans receiving a War Pension for conditions relating to their Service in the First Gulf War, or their pre-deployment preparation.

Tens of thousands more Gulf War veterans are estimated to be suffering with illnesses related to their time in Service and research into appropriate treatment and health pathways would significantly improve their lives.

However, there has never been any published research in the UK into treatment or best practice which would improve the symptoms of veterans suffering from Gulf War Illnesses.

Marie-Louise Sharp, Policy Adviser on Armed Forces Health & Care, at The Royal British Legion, said:

“25 years after British Service personnel were first deployed to the Gulf, we still do not know how to effectively treat Gulf War Illnesses and it is time for this to change.

“We know the health of ill Gulf War veterans continues to be an important area for the Government, which is why the Legion is calling for investment into research so we can understand how to improve the lives of those affected.

“In addition, we ask for formal communication channels to be established to convey the results of US research developments to Gulf War veterans living here in the UK.”

Symptoms experienced by ill Gulf War veterans include acute and chronic fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive problems, rashes and diarrhoea.

Research in the US, UK, Australia and Canada has found that veterans of the Gulf War report symptoms associated with Gulf War Illnesses at about two to three times the rate of other veterans.
It found they are twice as likely to report Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, have a poorer quality of life, and their symptoms tend to be experienced at a greater intensity than those who served in other comparable conflicts.

The campaign announcement is backed by the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association (NGVFA).

Find out more about the Legion's Gulf War Illnesses campaign