THE borough’s leading war vets’ charity has welcomed a flagship Government spending package to give wounded ex-soldiers access to the state-of-the-art replacement limbs.
The Veterans’ Council, based in Platt Bridge, said the announcement of £11m in funding over a two-year period to improve the treatment and rehabilitation of amputee ex-servicemen receiving care through the NHS was “an important step in the right direction”.
The funding, made up of £6.5m in the first year and around £4.3m in the second, will be distributed to nine NHS specialist facilities across the country which treat military personnel and will include provision for ex-soldiers to be fitted with bionic limbs.
However, the Veterans’ Council also said it was crucial to ensure that funding could be guaranteed into the future and was not simply a one-off package, citing the high on-going maintenance costs of modern artificial arms and legs.
Operations manager Michael Lawrence said: “This funding is excellent news and we hope to see it continued in the future once we have pulled out of Afghanistan.
“We have also been told that the joints only last about five years, and in some cases the sockets alone can cost £20,000. so funding will need to carry on as they will need replacing through wear and tear.
“A lot of these young amputees are superbly fit and will want to do a lot more with their artificial limbs than people in their 50s and 60s. They will also have several prosthetics, one for running, one for everyday living and so on.”
Mr Lawrence said the new funding package has partly come about due to the difference in budgets for injured soldiers discharged from the military, who are treated by the NHS, and those who can be retained by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for work away from the front line.
Figures suggest the health service is able to spend several hundred pounds per veteran each year, compared to as much as £70,000 spent by the MoD.
Mr Lawrence also suggests the funding will help civilian amputees by making the latest technology more widely available. He said: “Most of the improvements in treating injuries developed through warfare have had a knock-on effect and trickles down to civilian life.
“Hopefully in the future there will be help for people who have lost limbs through road traffic accidents or conditions such as diabetes.”
Although it is impossible to say how many veterans in the Wigan area will benefit from the proposals, Mr Lawrence says there is enough funding in the new announcement to improve a significant number of lives.
The North West is the country’s second-biggest recruitment area for the Armed Forces, and around 250 servicemen have lost limbs through service in Afghanistan alone.
Mr Lawrence said: “A lot of veterans are going to come back to their roots where they have family and a support network, so I would hope the North West will get more than other areas in funding to recognise this.”