British Military Laser Eye Surgery Policy

Although the US Military actively encourages its troops and other service personnel to have LASIK treatment for short sight, long sight and astigmatism, the UK Ministry of Defence ( MoD ) has yet to adopt the same approach. The Secretary Of State For Defence (Geoff Hoon, MP) provided with the following statement :

  • The MoD is currently reviewing its policy on Laser Eye Surgery. In future, this may allow us to offer this treatment for service personnel, undertaken by military ophthalmic surgeons in defence secondary care facilities, where appropriate.

British Military Laser Eye Surgery Policy
  • Existing Military Policy, Followed By All Three Services
  1. States that while LASIK is not generally prohibited among serving personnel or potential recruits, there are rules covering its use.
  2. Laser Eye Surgery is not approved for personnel in certain specialist employment groups such as Aviation, Diving, Airborne Forces or Marines.
  3. And for all personnel, either serving or potential recruits, the maximum pre-correction refractive error that is allowable to be corrected is +/- 6 dioptres. The MoD does not pay for refractive error corrective surgery, nor is it undertaken by military ophthalmic surgeons on military patients.
  • Personnel who are currently serving, and choose to undergo Laser Eye Surgery, are obliged to disclose it to their medical officer and, on their return to work, they are temporarily medically downgraded for a period of 12 months. Before being declared medically fit, they are seen by a service consultant ophthalmologist who confirms that the individual is suffering from no significant visual side effects secondary to the surgery, and that the eye is stable. When contemplating this procedure, personnel are advised that failure to meet eyesight standards following the operation may result in permanent medical downgrading.

  • Any potential recruit who has disclosed that they have had Laser Eye Surgery must be referred for a comprehensive ophthalmic examination by a service approved consultant ophthalmic surgeon who will make a recommendation on suitability for entry. This must include specialist visual function testing. They must also show documentary evidence that :
  1. The pre-correction error was no more than +/- 6 dioptres.
  2. The best spectacle corrected visual acuity is 6/6 or better in the right eye, and 6/12 or better in the left eye.
  3. At least 12 months have elapsed since they had the treatment.
  4. There has been no significant visual side effects secondary to the surgery affecting daily activities.
  5. Refraction is stable, as defined by two refractions performed on each eye at least six months apart, with no more than a 0.50 dioptre difference in the spherical equivalent in each eye.