Military health expert knighted
- 29 December 2012
- From the section Health
A leading researcher into the mental health of military personnel has been knighted in the New Year's Honours.
Prof Simon Wessely, said he was "genuinely surprised and incredibly honoured" by the award.
He now heads the department of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London.
He became interested in "medically unexplained symptoms and syndromes" early in his career, and studied chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) - or ME.
In 1991 he was involved in setting up one of the first NHS clinics for people with CFS symptoms and in the mid 1990s, he started to investigate Gulf War Syndrome.
This disputed condition had been linked to personnel who served in the first Gulf conflict in 1990-91.
Reported symptoms ranged from chronic fatigue, headaches and sleep disturbances to joint pains, irritable bowel, stomach and respiratory disorders and psychological problems.
Prof Wessely has said there may not be a distinct illness.
He said: "Gulf War Syndrome is a misnomer," he said. "Rather it's an illness or health effect.
"We established something happened, but we found no specific cause.
"The fascinating thing is that it didn't happen again in Iraq, and the reason for that remains enigmatic."
Prof Wessely continues to study the long-term effects on those now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But he said that there had been improvements in the mental health care for armed forces personnel and those close to them.
"There is now improved psychological support, particularly for reservists and families."
He was among a large number of researchers, charity workers and NHS staff to receive honours.
Other health experts recognised included Stephen O'Brien, Chair of Barts and The London NHS Trust, who also receives a knighthood.
Respiratory health expert Prof John Britton and Caroline Shaw, chief executive of Manchester's specialist cancer hospital, The Christie are among those made CBEs.
One of those is Caroline Shaw, who is appointed a CBE for her work running The Christie cancer hospital in Manchester.
A former midwife, Ms Shaw was one of the youngest female NHS chief executives when she took over at the Christie in 2005.
She said: "I am incredibly proud... It is such a huge honour to be recognised in this way for my work in an industry I believe in and care passionately about."