Soldier exercise training anon MoD

Calls For MOD Sickle Cell Screening After Army Recruit Deaths

A coroner has demanded the Government take "urgent action" after two recruits collapsed from undiagnosed disease.

Soldier exercise training anon MoD

A coroner has demanded the Government take "urgent action" to prevent future deaths of Army recruits, after two soldiers collapsed and died during military exercise runs.

Kamil Iddrisu, 25 and from Ghana, and Youngson Nkhoma, 31 and from Malawi, died within 10 days of each other at Whittington Barracks, Staffordshire, in November this year.

Both recruits were taking part in separate runs, when they collapsed from an undiagnosed sickle cell disease, which can be fatal during extreme exercise.

The pair, who died on 17 November and 27 November respectively, were hospitalised with severe kidney damage following the incidents, after being sent to the UK for officer selection, an inquest heard.

Sickle cell disease affects about 15,000 people in the UK and is more common in people of African or Caribbean descent.

A report published on Monday by Birmingham and Solihull's senior coroner, Louise Hunt, warned there is a risk of future deaths unless action is taken. 

"If a person has sickle cell trait (SCT) they are at significant increased risk of death or collapse during military exercise", she said.

"I have been advised that three other men have also collapsed in similar circumstances, requiring intensive treatment, however they did not die.

"As a result, I am concerned that there is a group of non-UK candidates who are at risk of death or harm if further steps are not taken immediately."

Anonymous British soldiers boots
Candidates from African or Caribbean descent are said to be at a higher risk of carrying the sickle cell trait.

Ms Hunt called on the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to consider screening all non-UK selection candidates for sickle cell trait through blood testing, and said that those already recruited should be tested urgently.

She gave the ministry until the end of January 2020 to respond to the report with a timetable for any proposed action.

According to the MOD, candidates will now be screened for the trait "where available" via an NHS family questionnaire, while "work is under way" to introduce blood tests for candidates "whose family background suggests they might be at a higher risk of being SCT".

An Army spokesman said: "It is with sadness that we can confirm the deaths of two potential recruits on separate assessment exercises at Whittington Barracks.

"As an investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further."

The MOD says a service inquiry will observe the circumstances surrounding the two deaths and will recommend any necessary actions. 

According to the department, all candidates must pass an initial medical assessment - including electrocardiogram - prior to undertaking any physical activity.

"Urgent action has been taken to understand what has happened and to put mitigations in place to address any potential issues", the department said.


Cover image: Anonymous soldiers (Picture: MOD).