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RehabilitationNov 15, 2022

Patients who can have bionic hands on the NHS will feel like Christmas has come early, says veteran

People who will now be eligible to receive a sophisticated bionic arm through NHS England will feel like Christmas has come early, according to a military veteran who received the high-tech prosthetic two years ago.

Darren Fuller, 46, from Colchester, Essex, is very impressed with the bionic hand he received in 2020. He lost a hand and forearm in his early 30s while serving with the Parachute Regiment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Until NHS England announced a policy shift on 5 November, the cutting-edge prosthetics were only available through the NHS to military veterans who had been injured while in service.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
People who learn that the NHS is to start funding bionic arms will feel 'like it's Christmas'


Christmas feeling

The NHS Veterans’ Prosthetics Panel funded Darren’s bionic arm in 2020 and he is delighted that eligible NHS patients will now benefit from the latest technology as well.

Darren said: ‘It will massively change people’s lives because they will be able to do things more independently – they have amazing functionality. I can hold a paint brush and paint or pick up a glass and drink from it.

‘I have a seven-year-old daughter [Sky] and it allows me to do a lot more with her, such as arts and crafts. I don’t feel excluded from any part of her life anymore and there’s not much I can’t do with her. It will be like Christmas for those people who are eligible for this, have wanted one and been waiting for this day.'

The newly available bionic arms – controlled by electrical brain signals – have multi-grip capabilities, enabling a greater range of movements to make day-to-day tasks easier.

NHS England will make the technology available to every patient who needs it, following two independent reviews into their use and the successful rollout for veterans. Dozens are expected to be eligible.

It will massively change people’s lives because they will be able to do things more independently ... it will be like Christmas for those people who are eligible for this [Darren Fuller]

Prosthetics offered by the NHS previously were basic models, with limited open and close gripping motions, or others were cosmetic with no function.

Eligible patients must have enough residual upper arm muscles to send signals that create intuitive movements, but children as young as nine can use them, allowing them to improve their play and learning. Each patient is carefully assessed to find the right type of prosthetic for them depending on their requirements and capabilities.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘These incredible multi-grip prosthetics have already made a huge difference to veterans and so it is fantastic to be able to offer them to all patients in England who need them.

‘The arms, for both children and adults, use the very latest tech which will boost peoples’ independence and change the lives of dozens across the country.'

She added: ‘The NHS is at the forefront of medical innovation and this rollout is the latest example of how we are adopting the best medical advances for patients.’

Author: Ian A McMillan
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