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Professor awarded knighthood for service to military healthcare

A university professor who has improved mental health services for the Armed Forces has been made a Knight Bachelor.

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Professor Sir Simon Wessely [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD]
Professor Sir Simon Wessely

Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine, Director of King’s College London’s Centre for Military Health Research and Vice Dean for Academic Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s, has been given the honour for services to military healthcare and psychological medicine.

His academic work has led to a better understanding of Gulf War Illness and to more effective psychological support for the Armed Services.

In 2003, Professor Wessely’s team was asked to investigate whether personnel returning from Iraq had any of the symptoms associated with what had been dubbed ‘Gulf War Syndrome’.

Results showed they did not, but, as the conflict in Iraq continued and operations in Afghanistan began, the Ministry of Defence asked Professor Wessely and his team to continue tracking the randomly-selected sample of 10,000 troops.

Focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder, Professor Wessely’s team carried out independent research investigating what had happened to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2009, as well as to those who had not deployed.

His study showed that rates of post-traumatic stress disorder have remained stable among regular Armed Forces personnel at between 3 and 4%.

Professor Wessely said:

I am surprised and delighted with this honour. It may be a cliche but in truth this is not just for me, it is for all the amazingly talented people I have been fortunate to work with at the IoP, King’s College London and the Maudsley.

I have spent a large part of my career trying to improve the health of servicemen and women and I want to thank them for their fortitude, their inspiration and most of all their patience with our research.

Professor Wessely’s main interests are the boundaries between medicine and psychiatry and military health, and he has led research teams and published extensively in these areas. He has also acted as a spokesperson for psychiatry and medicine and is committed to public engagement in these areas.

His work has spread beyond the UK to the US and Australia and he works closely with a number of charities in support of ex-servicemen and women.

Upon hearing of Professor Wessely’s knighthood, the MOD’s Surgeon General, Air Marshal Paul Evans, said:

I am delighted that Sir Simon has been made a Knight Bachelor in this year’s New Year’s Honours List for services to military healthcare and psychological medicine and offer congratulations on behalf of the Defence Medical Services.

The research that he has undertaken for Defence has greatly assisted us in the continued development and improvement of the psychological support we provide to our serving personnel, their families and veterans.

If you know someone who is deserving of recognition in their medical field, nominations are open for this year’s Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards.

Published 15 January 2013