Injured military personnel who have legs amputated are to be given the most up-to-date prosthetic limbs after the government set aside £6.5m for them.The latest micro-processor limbs, known as “bionic legs”, will be available to service personnel who have been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The move is expected to benefit about 160 members of the armed forces.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said it was a top priority to give troops the best possible care and support.
Chancellor George Osborne, who is making the money available from the Treasury’s Special Reserve, said: “Our troops are heroes who have and continue to give absolutely everything for their country and it is only right that we do everything possible to help them, especially when they suffer injury.
“I am delighted, therefore, that we have been able to make funding available for this cutting edge prosthetic technology, which will go a long way to improving the lives of people who have done so much for the UK.”
Experts say the “bionic legs” – the same as those used by Paralympics discus thrower Derek Derenalagi, a former soldier – will significantly improve the quality of life for rehabilitation amputees.
The new technology provides better stability and greater mobility, as well as improvements in the ability to step over obstacles, negotiate stairs and walk backwards safely.
The artificial legs are said to improve dramatically the quality of life and the speed of rehabilitation for troops and veterans.
The limbs will be fitted where clinically appropriate at the Headley Court military rehabilitation centre in Surrey.
Mr Hammond said: “There is no greater example of this than Headley Court, which provides world class medical care and rehabilitation for personnel that have been injured while serving their country.
“Last year we spent £22m improving the facilities at Headley Court and I am delighted to announce that we will now spend £6.5m to ensure UK servicemen and veterans injured in Afghanistan or Iraq will have the opportunity to upgrade to the most technologically advanced prosthetics currently available.”
Paralympic rower Captain Nick Beighton, who lost both legs in an explosion during a foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2009, welcomed the micro processor limbs as a “big step up in technology”.
“To have the opportunity to try it and to use it and get the latest technology is fabulous for us because it just gives us that freedom to get out and do more things and have greater functionality and more independence,” said the 31-year-old London 2012 competitor.
Surgeon General Air Marshal Paul Evans said: “The next generation of micro processor knee is a fantastic prosthetic development and now seen to have proven benefits for certain amputees. It will improve the quality of life and rehabilitation for our patients, where it is clinically suitable.
“Not only does it provide better stability and improved mobility but will also help reduce back pain and aid rehabilitation generally.”