HC Deb 02 March 1959 vol 601 cc4-5
3. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Health if he will state the priority which exists in the supply of artificial limbs and appliances to war pensioners, the time taken to provide a new limb, and the average time now required to undertake major limb repairs at Roehampton.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Richard Thompson)

Priority is given to war pensioners in the supply of artificial limbs whenever circumstances justify it. The average time taken to supply new limbs to all patients at Roehampton is at present about eighty-five days. Time taken for repairs varies according to the complexity of the job and its priority, but on average the most complex repairs take about eighty days.

Dr. King

Is the Minister aware that the artificial limb service, in which Britain leads the world, is much appreciated by the limbless ex-Service man, and that the only anxiety expressed from time to time concerns the length of time he has to wait for his limb? Can the Minister assure us that the average time he has quoted is not an increase on the previous average time?

Mr. Thompson

I am obliged to the hon. Member for what he has said. I think that I can give him the assurance for which he seeks. The average time indicated to him was in reply to his specific question about major limb repairs, but many repairs—in fact, almost half, throughout the country—are carried out in the centres without any delay. They are actually carried out on the same day. The average for all repairs in 1958 was about thirty-three days.

Mr. Simmons

Can the Minister say whether the recent amalgamation of the two main firms has had any effect upon the waiting period—either adversely or otherwise?

Mr. Thompson

I am not aware that it has had any adverse effect, but perhaps the hon. Member would put down a Question on the matter.

Mr. Arbuthnot

Are any steps being taken to reduce the average time taken for repairs?

Mr. Thompson

It is rather a difficult problem. So much of the time for the repair arises out of the lengthy process of prescription, measurement, fitting and that kind of thing. It is not the actual manufacture which takes up most of the time.

4. Mr. Simmons

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement of the benefits which have accrued to wearers of artificial limbs and appliances through the work of the Department of Research and Experiment at Roehampton; and what new items have been approved for general issue to amputees from the work of that department during the last two years.

Mr. R. Thompson

The research department plays a major part in artificial limb development by undertaking basic research, by initiating or developing new ideas and designs, by working with and advising the limb contractors on the contractors' own ideas for developments, by organising field trials, and by examining developments overseas or submitted from other sources so that promising new lines can be investigated. Forward set knees, suction sockets, anatomical tuber-bearing corsets and "Z" type below-elbow prostheses have become generally available in the last two years from the work of the department in conjunction with the limb contractors. In addition, various arm appliances have been designed for special needs, other developments have been approved and are about to go into production, and many projects are under way.