The Ministry of Defence has shelved a trial of a life-saving device to help stop bleeding on the battlefield over the £5 million cost, The Telegraph can reveal.
In 2019, Gavin Williamson, then the Defence Secretary, announced a trial of a "medical autoinjector" which could help ensure that soldiers injured on the battlefield did not die from uncontrolled bleeding.
Gavin Williamson watches medics being trained in the us of the autoinjector in London in April 2019
Credit: David Rose
The devices would have allowed soldiers to administer a chemical called Tranexamic Acid (TXA) at the push of a button.
When someone is injured, their body should naturally produce clots to help stem the bleeding. However, in the case of major trauma such as the loss of a leg, the body can wrongly send a message to break down the clots. This leads to the risk that the injured person will die from the bleeding.
TXA is a naturally occurring molecule which counteracts this and prevents the body from breaking down clots. The autoinjector device would allow this to be administered on the battlefield and without needing to find a vein.
When he announced the trial, Mr Williamson said the technology would have "an immediate impact in terms of reducing the number of deaths on the battlefield". He added: "This funding shows our commitment to ensuring those serving on the frontline get the best treatment as rapidly as possible."
However, while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) says it is "still scoping options" to bring in technology, The Telegraph can reveal the money has been "prioritised for use elsewhere".
An MoD spokesman said: "In order to meet critical requirements, funding previously announced for the introduction of tranexamic auto-injectors across the Armed Forces was prioritised for use elsewhere. Currently we cannot give a timeline as to when procurement of TXA autoinjectors may begin or enter service."
The decision was criticised by experts who pointed to the importance of the device in helping to prevent deaths.
Ben Barry, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said bandages fitted with new coagulant technology such as TXA made a considerable difference to US forces in Afghanistan.
He said these autoinjectors might increase that effect, adding: "The more robust you can make your medical capability in the forward area, the longer people can live."
Ian Roberts, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said "all the science is pointing towards the autoinjector". He said Mr Williamson had been right to praise TXA autoinjectors in 2019 and that and, today, "we have even more reason to believe what he said was true".
"We didn’t really know [two years ago] it would be absorbed from muscle [or] how quickly it would be absorbed into the blood," Prof Roberts added.