Having FH should not stop you joining the armed forces- thanks to the work of HEART UK
Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is such a priority for us. For many years we have been the only charity campaigning to identify, treat and support people affected by this genetically inherited high cholesterol condition. We were instrumental in bringing government and NHS policies to focus on FH and have recently heard from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock and the NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, that they are committed to identifying more people with FH in line with the NHS Long Term Plan target of 25% of all FH cases in England.
We helped secure this target and it is the only 5-year target in the Long Term Plan. I was delighted to also get commitment from them of £500,000 to enable a pilot in seven areas of England to screen 30,000 children for FH and to an additional £335,000 for the NHS to create a lifelong national FH Registry.
An important service to further develop to help enable all this to happen is the genetic services. Identifying the FH gene in an individual will also help identify the gene in other family members. Finding FH as early as possible, as early as childhood, means treatment and adopting a healthy lifestyle will be more beneficial.
Some people have understandably told us that they are reluctant to get a genetic test or to get their children tested because of how it may affect their employment, particularly in the armed services. If FH is managed well and the person with FH is on treatment, then they are otherwise usually fit and healthy. If FH is properly managed and they are managing well on medication, then there is no reason to be excluded from the armed services.
I brought this up with the Strategic Command Headquarters Defence Medical Services, and along with the help of Prof. Steve Humphries, Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular Genetics at the Institute Cardiovascular Science, UCL. I am delighted to confirm that people with FH, providing that their medication is working effectively as it usually would, are fit and able to join the armed forces.
I am particularly pleased with this result as it helps give reassurance that getting a genetic test for FH or indeed having FH need not be a barrier to anyone wishing to enter the armed forces for a career.
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