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​Ending amputee disability - the expert opinion

Senior Solicitor Richard Edwards is experienced in dealing with personal injury claims for people who have suffered amputation injuries.

As well as his work at Potter Rees Dolan, he is Group Secretary of Amputees and Carers Support in Liverpool (ACSIL).

We spoke to Richard to get his views on the themes we’ve discussed throughout our prosthesis series, and conclude whether we can end amputee disability in 2018.

Significant barriers

Of all the barriers limiting us ending amputee disability, Richard thinks that poor rehabilitation provision is currently the biggest barrier, unlike the public in our recent survey, who ranked it third. He said:

Access to dedicated services that provide the best prosthetic equipment and the associated professional support - such as prosthetists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists - is what is needed to minimise the impact of amputation.

Instead of focusing on ‘ending’ amputee disability, which he considers to be a laudable but unrealistic aim, he believes that going forward, efforts should be centred on ensuring that the rehabilitation services provided through the NHS are properly resourced and that every amputee has local access to these services. This way the impact of the disability can at least be minimised.

Future advancements

Richard agrees with double amputee and filmmaker, James Young, that prosthetics will never surpass human ability, in the sense that man-made limbs will not be able to heal themselves like human bones.

Expanding on this, he said: “Whilst the best prosthetics around are very advanced pieces of equipment, there are limitations and they will never achieve the same degree of function as a normal limb. It’s not realistic to expect prosthesis to entirely replicate the loss of a limb, rather they are designed to minimise the effect of amputation.”

That said, Richard is positive about the future development of prosthetics and how they will help to minimise the effect of amputation:

There are lots of exciting developments in the research phase. Regarding upper limb prosthetic technology, developers are looking at models that give sensory feedback to mimic the effect of touch and there are others that use camera technology to enable automatic gripping, so that functional use of the prosthesis becomes more natural. These are all, however, in the early stages of development and it will be sometime before they become commercially available.

A new focus

Despite the rapid advancement of prosthetic technology in recent years, our research shows that given the scale and significance of the barriers - such as a lack of NHS funding and the prioritisation of treatment for other illnesses or conditions - we are not in a position to end amputee disability in 2018.

Instead of eradicating amputee disability completely, the focus of continued work should be to break down any barriers that amputees face in living a full and active life whilst continuing to improve prosthetic technologies, with the aim of continually minimising the impact of disability.

Watch Richard discuss how to make a claim for amputation injuries in the video below: