Children who are missing an arm or leg are being helped to run, swim and play sport after getting prosthetic sports limbs on the NHS.
The roll-out of sports prostheses on the NHS is part of a £1.5m fund to help child amputees and others across England get active. There are also hopes that it might help create Britain’s future Paralympians.
Ben Moore, 13, from Brighton, has already put his new running blade into action to jog and play football. Now his sights are on the Paralympics, according to his mother Kate.
She said: “We’re really pleased Ben has been fitted with a new running blade. After watching the success of Team GB last year, this blade means Ben can develop his interest in sport and could become part of the next generation of Team GB.
“We hope more children and young people like Benjamin will be able to benefit too.”
Double-leg amputee Richard Whitehead, who successfully defended his Paralympic title in the 200m T42 at Rio last year, said: “Having run thousands of miles on prosthetics myself, I’m delighted to see the next generation take their first steps in experiencing the freedom of running whether just for general enjoyment or towards achieving their own Paralympic ambitions.”
Running blades, swim fins and arm attachments to help children play basketball are among some of the equipment that will be shared out.
Rolled out over 2016/17 and 2017/18, the money is being divided between NHS limb centres to fund requests for the equipment, and research to improve sports protheses.
The fund, which the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced during the Rio Paralympics, was earmarked after a campaign to highlight the issue by Sarah Hope.
Hope’s two-year-old daughter, Pollyanna, had to have her right leg amputated below the knee after she was hit by a bus on a pavement in south London.
Kiera Roche, the chief executive of LimbPower, the national disability sports organisation for people with limb impairments, described the fund as “a really positive step” in supporting children to be more confident and sociable.
She said it gave them the equipment to participate and “immerse themselves fully in school PE and community activities”.
Hunt said: “Every child should be able to participate in sport. Team GB surpassed everyone’s expectations at last year’s Paralympics and this investment will ensure the next generation of children who have either been born without a limb or who have lost a limb will be able to lead an active life.
“It’s wonderful that the first children are now receiving their blades and that they will be able to reach their sporting potential. I hope some may even be selected in the future as members of Team GB.”