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Rationale for the Study

 

During the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan (Herrick) and Iraq (Telic) between 2001 and 2014 significant numbers of military personnel deployed to these areas suffered serious and life-changing combat-related injuries such as: amputations, head injury, fragmentation wounds and vision loss; the majority of these as a result of blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Many however survived because of the medical treatment and care provided on the battlefield and by the trauma teams (Defence Medical Services (DMS) ‘back at camp’ and subsequent care provided by the National Health Service (NHS) teams back in the UK.

After leaving hospital many of those severely injured were referred to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court near Epsom, Surrey where they underwent intensive rehabilitation, often over many months and for some, over many years before they were discharged to home and their communities or back to their Units. However, their ‘stories’ don’t end there.

Many of these injured men and women face on-going and long-term physical, social and psychological challenges in their everyday lives. High rates of depression and anxiety disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), body image anxiety and reduced social functioning, social discomfort and negative sense of self and identity are all common challenges which have been identified in ‘war’ veterans from previous conflicts and wars.

Although the long-term health and welfare of veterans from World War II, Vietnam, Iran-Iraq and others have been reported, the findings from these studies are not really applicable to our current military casualties and veterans who tend to have suffered more extensive and severe injuries than those from previous conflicts.

Whilst we can learn from the experiences of those who have undergone non-traumatic and non-blast amputation, it is difficult to compare results with our injured men and women because of the nature of injuries caused by IEDs. As a result, we do not know if, or how the injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan will affect our veterans’ long-term future.

In order for us to fully understand and to know what the daily and long-term challenges facing our battlefield casualties are, it is essential we take this opportunity to study their long-term health and welfare and learn from their challenges so we can, where possible, support them as they are discharged from the Armed Services and try to prevent any harmful outcomes in future injured servicemen and women.

On 20th March 2003, a United States-led international coalition – which included Britain – launched an invasion of Iraq.

The stated aims were to disarm the country of weapons of mass destruction, end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism and free the Iraqi people from his repressive regime.

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In 2014, British combat troops left Afghanistan. British forces had been in the country since 2001 when they were sent as part of a coalition tasked with intervening in Afghanistan to find the leaders of al-Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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