HC Deb 05 December 1978 vol 959 cc1205-6
6. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many representations he has now received about the use in Great Britain of the Swedish myoelectric hand.

Mr. Alfred Morris

My Department has received 123 inquiries relating to children of all ages.

Mr. Price

Is my hon. Friend aware that his policy of demanding extensive trials before children can be fitted with this hand under the National Health Service—whereas in the private sector children are being fitted with the hand without any trials at all, as all the trials have been conducted in Sweden—is causing tremendous anguish among parents with children who desperately need this important new invention and do not see any prospect of getting it in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Morris

I appreciate how important this invention is to the parents of the children concerned. We are not wasting time with the trial. The trial is very necessary. Dr. Sorbye in Sweden has built up a level of experience over a number of years, but this was in a research environment. The hand being used has only recently gone into commercial production. We must not give the impression that this is a magic wand. It is an artificial hand. There is a great deal of work to be done. I assure my hon. Friend that there will be no delay whatever in coming to conclusions about the trial.

Mr. McCusker

Is the Minister aware that none of these appliances has been issued in Northern Ireland, even on a trial basis? Will he have discussions with his hon. Friends in the Northern Ireland Office to see that this situation is remedied?

Mr. Morris

I am constantly in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office. Twenty-five children are included in the trial at the moment. Our resolve is to try to make sure that the trial succeeds. I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said about consultation.

Dr. Vaughan

Is the Minister aware that there is widespread dissatisfaction about the quality and range of appliances available, particularly for children with bilateral amputations? Will he, when he is looking at the Swedish instrument, also look at the other instruments available under the National Health Service?

Mr. Morris

Yes, I shall he glad to do so. There may be dissatisfaction in some quarters, but there is also a great deal of satisfaction that we are taking this new step forward in trying to provide a new form of help under the National Health Service.

Mr. Price

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity of raising the matter on the Adjournment.