Colchester: Mother welcomes bionic boost for injured troops
A MOTHER of a wounded soldier has welcomed new government funding to help amputee servicemen – but says more should be done to support them long-term.
Today the Government is set to announce a funding boost of £6.5million targeted at ensuring all members of the Armed Forces, past and present, who have been injured in Iraq or Afghanistan will be able to have state-of-the-art micro-processor limbs, known as “bionic legs”.
But Cheryl Hall, from Boxted, near Colchester, whose son, Ashley, lost both legs in a blast in Afghanistan, says she is concerned the funding will not “even start” to cover the care wounded servicemen need throughout their lives.
She said: “These new prosthetics are wonderful. They offer a knee joint controlled by a microchip, which improves mobility and gives users a much more natural gait.
“I’m sure they will benefit people but I’m concerned the money is not enough. Each new leg costs around £50,000 and I know of at least 85 wounded servicemen who might need either one or two.
“The majority of these servicemen are in their 20s and have at least another 60 years in front of them. The £6.5m won’t last forever and my concern is whether the funding will be maintained throughout their lives.”
Mrs Hall and her husband, Steve, set up a charity called the Invicta Foundation after Ashley suffered his injuries in 2010. The charity raises funds to build specially-adapted homes to provide accommodation for soldiers and their families during the rehabilitation process.
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She continued: “When these guys leave the army they are cared for by the NHS. What happens when, after 10 to 15 years, the prosthetic needs replacing? Will the NHS be given a pot of money where servicemen will be given a like-for-like replacement?
“I know of one prosthetic user who is already struggling to find a replacement because they can’t find the funding. It’s no use giving people an all-singing, all-dancing limb and then after 15 years saying ‘you’ll have to go back to your wheelchair.’
“I think the money would be better spent helping suppliers of prosthetics to the NHS invest in the quality of their products.
“This would be a much more sustainable approach and would benefit everyone who requires prosthetics not just injured servicemen.”
Mrs Hall said Ashley was still undergoing rehabilitation and that she was still hopeful that one day he will be able to use prosthetics to “get up and about”,
Speaking ahead of the funding announcement today, Surgeon General Air Marshal Paul Evans said: “The next generation of micro processor knee is a fantastic prosthetic development and now seen to have proven benefits for certain amputees.
“It will improve the quality of life and rehabilitation for our patients, where it is clinically suitable.
“Not only does it provide better stability and improved mobility but will also help reduce back pain and aid rehabilitation generally.”
Chancellor George Osborne added: “Our troops are heroes who have and continue to give absolutely everything for their country and it is only right that we do everything possible to help them especially when they suffer injury.
“I am delighted, therefore, that we have been able to make funding available for this cutting-edge prosthetic technology, which will go a long way to improving the lives of people who have done so much for the UK.”
The money will be made available by the Chancellor from the Treasury’s Special Reserve.