One-in-five of navy sailors are not fit enough for service

FIT FOR DUTY Cdr Gareth Hughes in the gym at HMS Temeraire.   Picture: Allan Hutchings (110393-015)
FIT FOR DUTY Cdr Gareth Hughes in the gym at HMS Temeraire. Picture: Allan Hutchings (110393-015)

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ALMOST one-in-five people in the Royal Navy have not passed their annual fitness test, The News can reveal.

Latest figures show that out of around 30,000 sailors, only 83 per cent passed the compulsory Royal Naval Fitness Test to prove they are fit enough to serve.

One-in-10 sailors did not book themselves in for a test last year. A further four per cent did take the test but failed. The remainder are exempt due to medical or logistical reasons.

The navy aims to have 90 per cent of its sailors certified as fit at any given time.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, who sits on the Defence Select Committee, said: ‘Why are there such a large number of sailors without the certificate to say they are fit enough?

‘It’s worrying if it’s not at the 90 per cent level we want them to be.’

The navy says it is up to individual sailors to check when they need to re-take the test. The incentive is that those classed as ‘out of date’ are not put up for promotion.

Sailors can choose to achieve either a 1.5-mile run or a bleep test within a target time or level set against their age group and gender. Over-50s do the ‘Rockport Walk’, a one-mile fitness test, to measure their fitness.

Sailors who fail the test are given a formal warning and given three month’s grace to try again. If they fail after three months, they are given a further warning and another three months. If they still fail they have another three months. If they are still failing after nine months, sailors are on a final warning and are examined by a naval doctor.

If they fail the medical, they can be kicked out of the navy – which is understood to be a rare occurrence.

Commander Gareth Hughes, who is head of physical development policy in the navy, said people should look beyond the statistics.

He said: ‘What we’ve got to look at is how people operate at the sharp end. If you look at all the diverse activities required at sea and say “are people failing to achieve what we are asking of them?” then the answer is no.

‘If we’re talking about operations away from sea, like medics out in Afghanistan, the answer is no. The feedback we get from other services in Afghanistan is that we are doing superbly well. Fitness is not an issue.’

Cdr Hughes said he would like 95 per cent of sailors to be ‘in date’ with their test.

He added: ‘What is needed is a cultural change – the fitness test should not be like an MoT, it should be something you keep up all the time.’