Veterans’ Prosthetics

A better deal for military amputees

The government recently announced it was making £11 million available over the next 2 years to spend on prosthetics and improve rehabilitation services across the country for ex-servicemen and women who are amputees.

This announcement was in response to recommendations made by Dr Andrew Murrison MP, now MOD’s Minister for International Security Strategy, in a report commissioned by the Prime Minister about the provision of prosthetics for military amputees.

Dr Murrison recommended that a small number of multi-disciplinary centres should provide specialist prosthetic and rehabilitation services in England to ensure veterans have access to a similar, high quality of care to that which the Armed Forces provide.

Nine NHS facilities across the country will receive a share of up to £6.7 million of the funding. They will be able to use this specifically to access the latest technology and provide the highest quality of prosthetic care for veteran amputees. Other services will benefit too – with a £1 million fund to ensure that all prosthetics services across England improve.

The additional funding and improvements that this will bring will mean that civilian amputees will also be able to benefit from advanced care in centres across the NHS in England.

The remainder of the £11m will go towards providing prosthetics, continuing the Veterans Prosthetics Panel which was introduced in 2012 and hosted by the London Armed Forces Network on behalf of NHS London.

What is the Veterans Prosthetics Panel?

The Veterans’ Prosthetics Panel (VPP) was established in 2012 as an interim arrangement as part of the implementation of Dr Andrew Murrison’s recommendations; NHS England will be continuing this arrangement as it is an excellent way of ensuring that veterans can access high quality prosthetics regardless of which Disablement Service Centre (DSC) they attend.

Who qualifies for VPP funding for prosthetics?

This additional funding is available only to veterans who have lost a limb whilst in military service. A veteran who has left military service, but whose limb loss is attributable to an injury sustained whilst in service, also qualifies.

Veterans who lose limbs after they leave the military or suffer limb loss whilst in the military but not attributable to service e.g. in a civilian road traffic accident, will continue to access services as usual through their local Disablement Service Centre (DSC).

What will be funded?

The additional funding for veterans is for treatment that would not normally be provided by the NHS.

  • Routine maintenance of components that are outside warranty will, generally speaking, continue to be the responsibility of the relevant DSC.
  • Should a consultant in rehabilitation medicine not be available in your area, the support of a prosthetist may suffice. In such cases, applicant might also seek the support of other relevant clinicians in making the case for their application, e.g. physiotherapist, occupational therapist.
  • Warranties for new prostheses should cover the routine maintenance and upkeep for most components.
  • Sockets, suspension and any orthoses required to support a new limb may however be funded by the Panel.

Veterans having difficulty accessing a DSC should contact their GP in the first instance and then the Veteran Prosthetics Panel (see below). A full list of Disablement Service Centres is available on the NHS website.

Veterans who have recently been discharged from the military may also apply for funding through their DSC. In many cases, their existing artificial limb(s) will be under warranty so funding will not be required for routine maintenance. However, sockets and suspension may be over and above what is normally provided by the NHS and in cases where new sockets or suspension are required, these may be funded by the Panel.

The funding system

The system for funding individual veterans’ prosthetics can be accessed by existing and new veterans, with the support of their NHS Disablement Service Centre (DSC). The process for accessing the funding is as follows:

  • The DSC will assess the veteran and complete the application form and checklist. This assessment could form part of a routine follow-up appointment and as such is not ordinarily funded by the panel at this stage.
  • The Veterans’ Prosthetics Panel will review the funding request, give approval or seek further information
  • An appeal against the decision of the Panel may be made
  • The Panel will give permission to a DSC to proceed with treatment, and the DSC will ordinarily invoice the Panel for the cost  of the treatment
  • Additional funding above the amount authorised will not be made available if treatment costs exceed the amount agreed, unless extenuating circumstances can be demonstrated.

The panel meets on the third Tuesday of each month; the deadline for applications to be considered at a panel is 10 working days before the panel.