HC Deb 19 March 1981 vol 1 cc181-2W
Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish in the Official Report his reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Eccles relating to projects and personnel from the bio-medical research units at Roehampton to University college, London; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Rossi

I am happy to publish my reply of today to the hon. Member, which answers fully the question raised. The text is as followsThank you for your letter of the 5th March enclosing one from Mr. R. King of Charnwood, Farthingreen Lane, Stoke Poges, concerning the transfer of the control of the Department's research unit at Roehampton to University College London and the decision to conclude research into volume adjustable shape adaptive (VASA) sockets for artificial limbs. Research into VASA sockets was carried out by Dr. Isherwood in the Biomechanical Research and Development Unit at Roehampton throughout the 1970s. Following clinical trials at Roehampton, Oxford and Cambridge the conclusion was reached that this prosthetic technique is a useful addition to the methods available for helping patients who are experiencing problems in obtaining satisfactory limb fitting. It was not considered however to have a more general or routine application. It was decided therefore to conclude the trial and to make VASA sockets available at a limited number of centres to which other limb fitting centres can refer patients as necessary. Because of the relatively limited application it is felt that concentrating supply through a limited number of centres will ensure the technical skills required are maintained and enhanced by the more continuous experience that this will create. The facility to provide this type of socket is available at Oxford, Cambridge and Roehampton, the centres at which the trial was based and expertise built up, and is in the process of being extended to Manchester and Birmingham. Thus towards the end of 1980 when decisions were taken to transfer the control of the research unit to University College London the main thrust of the research work into VASA sockets was over and this was a factor in the carefully weighed decision that Dr. Isherwood should be among a number of staff not taken on by the new Bioengineering Centre. He has however been retained on the medical staff at the Roehampton limb fitting centre and is presently engaged in ensuring that the valuable techniques he has developed are effectively transferred to service use. In any research environment it is essential to maintain a slowly changing variety of expertise to meet fresh research and development commitments. One of the main purposes of the transfer of this unit to University College London has been to make this possible by allowing easier access to the varied disciplines found within a university.