John Baron MP: New study highlights extent of nuclear test veterans’ health anguish

September 1, 2014
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MP says photograph bolsters recognition campaign

John Baron MP and the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA) are campaigning on behalf of those veterans who took part in our nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s in Australia and the South Pacific. As part of the campaign, the BNTVA has very recently conducted a fresh study of its membership.

This new survey has uncovered that:
• Amongst veterans, nearly 20% of conceptions ended in a miscarriage or stillbirth – 50% more than the national average.
• Over 60% of veterans’ children suffer from a health disability sufficiently grave to affect their everyday life.
• Nearly 40% of children suffer from congenital or serious health problems – over ten times the national average.
Having obtained official recognition from the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on 2nd July for the veterans’ unique service, the campaign continues to secure the establishment of a £25m Charitable Fund for veterans and their descendants – please see ‘Notes to Editors’ for further information.

The BNTVA has also recently uncovered a photograph from the nuclear tests [attached], which clearly shows the protection suits worn by civilian scientists, as well as the lack of protection for servicemen – veterans’ testimony confirms these facts.

John said,

“This new survey sheds new light on the health problems experienced by veterans and their children. The miscarriage and stillbirth rate and the numbers of children suffering severe health problems is significantly higher than the national average. Given the veterans’ unique service to their country, we owe them and their descendants a debt of gratitude.”

“The photograph further bolsters the campaign. Whilst civilian scientists received protection, veterans were left potentially exposed to harmful radiation, blast and shock. It is not surprising if they suffered health problems as a result.”

“The study and photograph add weight to our call for the establishment of an ex gratia £25m Charitable Fund, available to veterans and their descendants on the basis of need, not entitlement, in order to help them with the costs of care and other associated expenditure.”

Nige Heaps, Chairman of the BNTVA said,

“These results illustrate the drastic effects of ionising radiation on the genetic heritage of veterans’ families. Sadly the thing they don’t show is the human heartache and anguish that our people have experienced dealing with these health problems.”

“This is what makes us different, this is why we need a Charitable Fund to address the very real health and well-being issues. With a reasonable start-up of £25million the Fund could be managed to create an ongoing sustainable income that will increase the well-being of those suffering under the shadow of the bomb.”

Notes to Editors:

• John is Patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA).
Health Problems:

• The following descendants have indicated they are happy to be contacted by the media to discuss their stories:
o Dominic Owen (01525 371 830 / 07931 455 175) – Dominic has decided not to have children on account of his health conditions. These include spinal/disc problems, kidney and joint problems.
o Louise Pearce (07762 554 336) – Louise has decided not to have children, due to a congenital problem with her legs, one being longer than the other.
o Patricia Waller (01709 546 345 / 07947 803 943) – Patricia has had many health issues, including spinal and neck problems. She had complications during her pregnancies, suffered some miscarriages, and was advised not to have any further children. Both of her children also suffer from health problems.
o Steve Clifford (01162 402 049) – Steve had childhood leukaemia, and was not expected to survive. He has fibromyalgia, diabetes and joint problems.
o James Cocker (07940 419 074) – James has aortic stenosis, a heart defect, as well as an enlarged spleen.
o Steve Purse (01513 538 339 / 07973 161 350) – Steve suffers from spondylometaphyseal dysplasia. This causes stunted growth, curvature of the spine as well as problems with straightening his arms. He has also had hydrocephalus and under-developed lungs.
o Amanda Coates (01394 282 931 / 07966 689 930) – Amanda has congenital deformities and missing limbs, and has suffered miscarriages.
o Sharon Harris (07593 010 374) – Sharon has suffered miscarriages, and has deformed legs and hip problems.
• Shelly Grigg runs a support group for veterans’ descendants, and can be contacted on: shelly.grigg@gmail.com. New members are very welcome.
• The NHS’ average figure for miscarriages is 12.5% of conceptions. SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, estimates the national average of stillbirths is 0.5%. A response to a Parliamentary Question suggests the birth prevalence for congenital disease is 2.5% [5th November 2013].
• Attached is a sample form filled in by veterans and their descendants. Examples of health problems include asthma, eczema, deafness, visual impairment and early-onset rheumatoid arthritis.
• A number of veterans fathered healthy children before deployment at the tests, but those they fathered after the tests have suffered health problems. A significant number of veterans simply opted not to have children, lest they pass on health problems.
• There is evidence to suggest the sterility rate amongst veterans and descendants is also elevated, as is the incidence of mental health issues.
• Many report that health issues only became fully apparent at puberty, and female descendants seem to be worse affected than their male counterparts.
Background:

• 20,000+ National Servicemen helped Britain develop its nuclear deterrent in the 1950s and 1960s. The science was unknown, and the precautions were rudimentary. Servicemen were often told simply to turn their backs and dust themselves down.
• Some of those not suffering from incontinence or severe blisters were ordered to collect samples of flora and fauna for scientists who were themselves wearing protective clothing – please see attached photograph.
• British Nuclear Test Veterans have found the MoD’s war pension scheme to be unfair. It requires the applicant to prove a causal link between illness and presence at a nuclear test. With the passage of time, and a lack of rigorous research, this can prove almost impossible. It is therefore unsurprising that 90% of applications from nuclear test veterans are unsuccessful.
Two Strands:

• Both sides can claim to have science on their side. Instead, we point to how badly Britain compares with other countries when considering their treatment of their nuclear test veterans (see attached ‘Table of International Comparisons’):
o The United States offers its nuclear veterans free healthcare, and up to two payments of $75,000 should the individual suffer one of a list of prescribed illnesses (mostly cancers). No causal link between nuclear service and the illness is required.
o Canada, which has a healthcare system very similar to our NHS, has paid veterans C$24,000. No proof of illness was required. This is in addition to a war pensions scheme.
o The Isle of Man Government offers £8,000 to its nuclear test veterans. Again, no proof of illness is required. This runs alongside the MoD war pensions scheme.
• However, many veterans are more concerned about the possible effects of their service on their descendants. Earlier research suggested 1 in 3 were affected by health problems – this study increases this figure to slightly more than 2 in 5 (43%).
The Campaign:

• The current recognition campaign is the second of a two-phase process. The first phase was to secure a Health Needs Audit, which was the initial priority of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA), given the age profile of the veterans. This was completed in 2011, and has led to the creation of a ‘veterans’ pathway’ through the NHS.
• The second phase, launched in June 2013, is to secure official recognition of the veterans’ unique service, by means of:
o A written or oral statement from the Prime Minister – this was achieved during Prime Minister’s Questions on 2nd July 2014.
o An ex gratia payment (thereby circumventing any liability) of £25m into a Charitable Fund for veterans and their descendants, access to which would be on the basis of need, not entitlement – thus illustrating that this is a campaign of recognition, not compensation.
• John met the Prime Minister in April, who has promised to ask further questions within Government. The Prime Minister reiterated this to John during Prime Minister’s Questions on 2nd July.

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