The US and UK have had a long enduring defence relationship. Both nations’ Armed Forces have cooperated in conflicts all over the world since World War I. They remain prominent NATO allies, partnering to tackle global threats and achieve global security. British personnel continue to serve in US units, and American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Air Force personnel operate in British units. Similarly, British medical personnel serve in US units, and American medical personnel operate in British units often with joint evacuation plans and cooperation.
Most recent and current conflicts have seen the rise in use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). The use of these weapons in particular have shaped the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, causing a great number of casualties and claiming the lives of both civilians and military personnel.
Of the service members evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of injury by IED, 14.9% had penetrating eye injuries and TBI related visual dysfunctions.
Over 75% of all TBI patients experience short- or long-term visual disorders (double vision, light sensitivity, inability to read print, and other cognitive impairments)
After hearing loss, traumatic eye injury from penetrating wounds and TBI-related visual is the most common injury among “active” military. Traumatic eye injuries have accounted for upwards of 16% of all injuries in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Soldiers with eye injuries have only a 20% return-to-duty rate as compared to an 80% rate for other battle trauma injuries.
A US-UK Task Force was first established in 2011-2013 between the then-president Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron. The original joint task force aimed to build on existing cooperation and share best practice in the support of Service personnel, their families and veterans. The report produced from the efforts of this taskforce, however, did not include a great deal of information regarding military and combat-related eye injuries nor TBI-related vision dysfunction and impairment. The need for a joint task force that specifically addressed this was first identified in 2011 as the lack of clear guidance for ocular trauma became evident.
The purpose of the joint US-UK Task Force is to advance interoperability between the allied military medical services. Ultimately this enable the Task Force to improve the care of service members, veterans and their caregivers affected by eye injuries including blast TBI related vision dysfunction by identifying current care and future joint best practices in diagnosis, battlefield care, research, mitigation, and rehabilitation services.
Over the five years that the Task Force has been in operation, our outlined objectives are:
- to collaboratively identify opportunities for enhancing interoperability between the US and UK in ocular combat casualty care.
- to improve the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation and reintegration of ocular injuries, as well as TBI-associated neurocognitive and visual symptomatology.
- to report on these initiatives, findings and recommendations at relevant military, ocular trauma experts, vision researchers and veterans’ conferences/meetings.
We also seeks to improve civilian ocular trauma care through migration of military lessons learned, particularly regarding issues facing first responders and non-ophthalmic providers in civilian disasters or acts of terrorism, resulting in improved emergency medical services and vision trauma outcomes.
US-UK ocular trauma task force members
- Blind Veterans UK
- Ministry of Defense
- National Health Service
- Relevant professional societies
- Defence Health Agency
- Veteran Affairs
- Blinded Veterans Association
- Relevant professional societies