A question was asked in the Commons yesterday (Commons Hansard: 6 March 2007, Col.1871W) about which medical conditions were incompatible with service in HM Forces. The Minister gave a non commital answer referring the Member instead to the broad crietria used to ascertain suitability using PULHHEEMS.

Mrs. Riordan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what medical conditions are not compatible with service in the (a) Army, (b) Navy and (c) Royal Air Force. [124634]

Derek Twigg: Due to the physical demands on members of the armed services, a high degree of physical capacity is needed, varying in nature and quality according to the demands of the employment. Guidelines and principles on medical conditions that may affect an individual's suitability for employment within the services are set down in Joint Services Publication (JSP) 346, with the specific aim of maximising the availability of the military population. This publication is constantly being reviewed and updated to reflect the changing demands and advances in clinical procedures and medical understanding.

The JSP 346 is based on the PULHHEEMS System of Medical Classification, in which examination of the individual is carried out with particular reference to certain sub-divisions of physical and mental function. The make up of the acronym PULHHEEMS is as follows:

P = physical capacity

U = upper limbs

L = locomotion

HH = hearing (hearing acuity)

EE = eyesight (visual acuity)

M = mental capacity

S = stability (emotional).

These sub-divisions are known as qualities, and the combined assessment under each of these qualities forms the PULHHEEMS code number or profile. An assessment has been made of the physical and mental requirement for each of the various service trades and employments. Cross-referring between these and an individual's personal profile ensures that a person will not be employed on any duties for which he is not physically and mentally suited.

Service personnel are required to attend a pre-entry medical when they join the armed forces. If any medical condition is identified, decisions on their suitability for employment will be made on an individual basis, including referral to a specialist medical consultant where necessary. Furthermore the JSP 346 guidelines on medical classification apply throughout the career of service personnel, including circumstances when medical conditions arise during the course of a service career. Each case is considered on its merit and no guidance can meet every contingency. For serving personnel, the aim wherever possible is to ensure the early return to duty in an appropriate grading (modified if necessary) and for serving personnel to be employed to the best advantage of the service and without detriment to themselves.