NHS to Invest up to £15 Million to Improve Prosthetic Care for Veterans

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced today that his Government is investing up to £15 million to improve prosthetics services for military veterans who have lost a limb while serving their country. The announcement follows recommendations made in Andrew Murrison, MD's, review into the prosthetic services currently offered to veterans by the National Health Service (NHS).

The review was launched in January by the Government following concern by Service charities and some serving personnel who have been seriously injured that the NHS may not be equipped to provide prosthetic services to the same standard as the Defence Medical Services at Headley Court.

In response to Murrison's key recommendation, the Department of Health will introduce a number of national specialist prosthetic and rehabilitation centers for amputee veterans across the country.

The Government will work with Service charities, including Help for Heroes and British Limbless Ex Service Men's Association, BLESMA, as well as specialists within the NHS to ensure that high quality NHS facilities are available to veterans.

The Department of Health will also use the experience and feedback from providing these specialist services to veterans and apply these to the wider NHS, to allow all patients to benefit in the future.

"I am passionately committed to our Armed Forces. As a country and as a government we have a particular duty to servicemen and women injured on operational duty. This report maps out a clear strategy for ensuring that those brave people can be confident they will receive the same levels of access to prosthetic limbs and specialist care from the NHS as they do at Headley Court. They deserve nothing less," Cameron said.

Based on the recommendations in this report, Cameron said his government will make the resources necessary to meet that need in England, and will work with the devolved administrations on arrangements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"The rapid roll-out of the recommendations I made last year on veterans' mental health has been impressive and I look forward to these latest proposals being progressed with the same enthusiasm. I hope the action points I have offered honor the military covenant and benefit military amputees, but I have been clear that they should also help to improve the service available to all limb center users." Murrison said.

Murrison made the following recommendations:

1. Ministers should take appropriate powers to provide for national commissioning of specialist prosthetic and rehabilitation services for amputee veterans through a small number of multi-disciplinary centers in England, adequately resourced and determined through a tendering exercise.

2. Equivalent and complementary provision should be agreed with the devolved administrations.

3. Veterans should be able to access mainstream NHS provision through a Disablement Services Centre (DSC) of their choice.

4. Each specialist center should have provision for a BLESMA support officer.

5. The trial of the MOD Seriously Injured Leavers' Protocol and the MOD/NHS Transition Protocol has the potential to improve handover from Headley Court and Personnel Recovery Units to DSCs and should be expedited with attention given to a refined system of case management, including a comprehensive statement of needs and prescription on transition to the NHS.

6. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence should be tasked with the production of national guidelines for prosthetic prescription and rehabilitation for all amputees, including provision for military amputees.

7. A prospective study of amputee veterans' long-term outcomes should be commissioned.

8. The review supports the relocation of the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre from Headley Court to form part of a Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre. Closer integration with the NHS holds considerable potential for Service-attributable amputees at all stages of the patient pathway as well as the wider civilian amputee community.

9. There should be a program of military/civilian exchange and capacity-building for healthcare professionals to rapidly grow the specialist prosthetic and rehabilitation network.

10. The NHS Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme currently available to war pensioners to be extended to beneficiaries of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme for the purpose of attending DSCs and accessing associated healthcare.

11. Case management to ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, amputee veterans abroad are able to access an equivalent standard of prosthetics and rehabilitation as they would have enjoyed had they remained in the UK.

12. An audit of the new funding arrangements should be undertaken after five years.