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Artificial Limbs

Volume 827: debated on Tuesday 30 November 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the fact that only a small proportion of limb deficient children in this country are using artificial limbs, if he will establish an inquiry to find out why the proportion is so small, and publish the reasons in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why it was not foreseen that either bigger gas cylinders or alternative means of energy storage would be needed as children using artificial limbs grew bigger; what is the supply time of existing means of energy storage; if he has satisfied himself that this cannot be improved by adopting methods used in other countries in the world; and if he will make a statement.

Research into the design and production of a larger gas cylinder began some six years ago. Technical and testing problems, mainly concerned with safety factors, delayed full production until last July. This container represents the limit of storage capacity of carbon dioxide which can reasonably be carried on the person; for most patients it holds sufficient gas to last for about a day. Pressurised gas is certainly as efficient as alternative sources of energy supply now available for this kind of apparatus, but the Department is sponsoring a study into the feasibility of using electric hydraulic power.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the conclusions reached by the Inspection Directorate of the Ministry of Technology regarding drawings and specifications of the Myoelectric arm design produced by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment; how many patients are using this arm; if he will publish a summary of the clinical reports in the OFFICIAL REPORT; and if he will make a statement.

The Inspection Directorate was not asked to evaluate the hand but to undertake quality assurance and production control, should it have been decided to proceed with commercial production. All the trial hands issued to patients have now been returned. Further arms modified by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment are being manufactured and will be tried on patients. Should any developments of sufficient significance emerge, they will be made known.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, in his Chief Medical Officer's next report, he will arrange for there to be an assessment of the present position of prosthetic provision in this country, an assessment of the next developments in the provision of more efficient limbs, and an account of the extent of international co-operation in this field.

The Chief Medical Officer is responsible for the content of his report to my right hon. Friend. He normally includes a chapter reviewing problems and progress in the treatment of the limbless.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is now in a position to make an announcement about limb research and development.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) on 5th August. The new advisory committee on artificial limb research and development has already commenced its work.Information about specific research projects will be included in the report under Section 22 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970, which

my right hon. Friend expects to lay before Parliament very shortly.—[Vol. 822, c.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the fact that in an answer on 11th May 1971, he stated that full discussions and comparisons have taken place regarding artificial limbs produced and supplied in other countries, whether he will now indicate when and where his Department tested the Myoelectric limbs produced in Austria, Germany and Italy; and if he will make a statement.

The first Biochemical Research and Development Unit study of the Austrian and German myoelectric systems took place in October, 1968, with more recent models being obtained from time to time. The technical specifications of the Italian developments do not differ significantly, so that they were not subjected to detailed examination.