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Armed Forces: Eyesight

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 25 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will make it his policy that applicants to the armed forces will not be rejected on the grounds that they have previously undergone laser eye surgery; and if he will make a statement; (324338)

(2) whether members of the armed forces who have had laser eye surgery to achieve the required level of sight attainment are allowed to continue in service.

The following methods of surgical correction of myopia or hypermetropia are considered suitable for entry on an individual, case by case basis for non-specialist employment groups and subject to single service requirements:

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)

Laser epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK)

Laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK)

Intrastromal corneal rings (ICRs), otherwise known as intrastromal corneal segments (ICSs)

Recruits must fulfil certain criteria, including that at least 12 months have elapsed since the last procedure, that there are no significant visual side effects, and that refraction has stabilised.

Entry will not be considered for radial keratotomy (RK), or astigmatic keratotomy (AK), or any other form of incisional refractive surgery, other than those procedures listed above. All invasive intraocular surgical procedures remain a bar to entry.

The methods of surgical correction of myopia listed above for recruits may be considered suitable for serving personnel on an individual, case by case basis.

However, potential complications of the procedure may result in them being re-graded at a lower level of fitness, and significant deterioration in vision may require them to be re-graded as undeployable.

Exceptions to the above general policy apply in the case of some specialist employment groups, most notably aircrew. Aircrew are normally recruited before ocular maturity and at an age when Corneal Refractive Surgery (CRS) may not provide long-term refractive stability. Furthermore, the long-term outcome of CRS in trained aircrew needs to be evaluated before considering the procedure for potential aircrew. Therefore, candidates for recruitment to the armed forces as aircrew who have had CRS are rejected. There are no current plans to change this policy.

Serving aircrew in all three services are permitted to undertake certain forms of CRS currently including PRK or LASEK corrective surgery, with the consent and support of medical officers.