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20 Armoured Infantry Brigade downgrade study: epidemiology of principal conditions and plugging leaks in the rehabilitation pipeline
  1. James Papworth1,
  2. L Osborne2,
  3. M A Shimmings2 and
  4. C C S Roberts2
  1. 1 Military Admin Office, Army Personnel Centre, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 Defence Postgraduate Medical Deanery, Defence Medical Services Whittington, Lichfield, UK
  1. Correspondence to James Papworth, Military Admin Office, Army Personnel Centre, Glasgow G2 8EX, UK; papworthj{at}


Introduction In April 2017, 22% of Army Full-time Trade Trained Strength was downgraded, reducing fully deployable strength to 60 546, against a target of 82 000. In June 2017, Commander 20 Armoured Infantry Brigade (20 AI Bde) initiated a study to look at the principal conditions causing medical downgrading, as a stepping stone to finding ways of reducing injury, enhancing rehabilitation and improving deployability.

Method The Defence Medical Information Capability Programme medical records for every downgraded soldier in 20 AI Bde and supporting units were scrutinised to identify their Medical Deployment Standard and the primary condition causing downgrading.

Results A total of 842 downgraded soldiers were identified from a held strength of 3827 personnel. Sixty-five per cent of these downgrades were due to musculoskeletal injury (MSKI). Of this 65%, the majority were due to knee (31%), spine (28%) and foot/ankle (23%). Of the remaining 35%, the majority were due to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) (22%), adjustment disorders (19%) and non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) (13%).

Several factors that slowed an individual’s recovery pathway were identified. They mainly relate to soldiers being lost to follow-up through lack of active case management.

Conclusions MSKI is responsible for most downgraded personnel at Brigade level. The distribution of principal conditions is similar to previous studies looking at recruits and individual units.

The creation of a rehabilitation troop, delivering active case management, can reduce the number of soldiers leaking out of the rehabilitation pipeline.

  • primary care
  • occupational and industrial medicine
  • epidemiology

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  • Contributors JEJP attended the initial meetings with 20 AI Bde and developed the initial study concept. LO and MAS refined the approach, conducted data capture and tabulated results. CCSR assisted with data processing. All authors reviewed the results, agreed on the themes identified and identified the lessons learnt. LO and MAS developed the initial draft. JEJP refined it and expanded the literature review. CCSR provided occupational health expertise and developed the recovery pathway graphics. Major Sean Clarke advised on indexing principal condition categories and RMO perspectives on where recovery pipelines leaked. JEJP is the guarantor for the study.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.