4 October 2014; 16 year old Pawan Sitthisung, from Navan, Co. Meath, pictured at the first ever running blades workshop held in Ireland hosted by Paralympics Ireland in partnership with sponsors Mondelez, and blade manufacturer Ottobock. The unique event saw eight individuals who had been prefitted for the technology given the opportunity to experience and showcase the blades with almost a fifty additional prosthesis users and amputees taking part in activity session to promote Paralympic sport. Morton Stadium, Santry, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

CHILDREN across England have started to receive new running and swimming blades from the NHS, thanks to a £1.5 million fund set up by the Department of Health.

Health Secretary Jeremy 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.”

Kiera Roche, chief executive of LimbPower, the National Disability Sports Organisation for people with limb impairments, said: “This is a really positive step in supporting children to be more confident and socially engaged, providing them with the equipment to participate and immerse themselves fully in school P.E. and community activities”.

Richard Whitehead MBE, double leg amputee and double Paralympic champion in T42 200m, said: “Having run thousands of miles on prosthetics 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.”

Funding for the prostheses (up to £5,000 per child) will be provided through NHS limb centres across the country. Limb centres will be given the money to source the prosthetic limbs from suppliers and fit them.

LimbPower, tel 07824992689

HUNDREDS of people with above-knee amputations will also soon benefit from high-tech, life-changing prostheses funded via the NHS.

The Government’s decision to approve the funding for Microprocessor Controlled Prosthetic Knees (MPKs) is a major victory for campaigners.

Kiera Roche, founder of the LimbPower charity, said: “This is a huge win for those living with above-knee limb loss.

“It will be life-changing for hundreds of people. I have met so many who have been trapped by the limited capabilities of their current prosthesis.

“Giving them the possibility to be able to go out without the fear of falling and hurting themselves is priceless.”

Phil Yates, managing director at Ottobock UK, one of the world’s leading makers of high-tech prostheses, said: “We campaigned tirelessly for over two years to ensure the approval from NHS England of this vital, component to improving rehabilitation and quality of life for those with above-knee limb loss.

“We believe this is a positive step forward, which recognises that the advances in prosthetic technology can make a real difference to the lifestyle and health of amputees.

“MPKs allow amputees access to activities that may not have been previously achievable and in some cases enabling them to go back to work.”

The technology helps amputees walk with a much more stable and efficient gait while reducing the chance of stumbles and falls.

Rachel Neilson, at Ottobock UK Academy, said: “Being able to stop and stand still without thinking, change your speed of walking, or take a step backwards should not be a luxury, and an MPK such as the C-Leg 4 provides all of those safely and predictably so that the amputee can just get on with what they want to do.”

More than 60,000 users worldwide are using the C-Leg, which took five years to develop.

Someone who knows the benefits of an MPK is Gillian McBain, a competitive swimmer for the first 10 years after having her leg amputated.

Back then her only concern was getting from her car to where she wanted to go and back again.

“As long as my prosthesis got me from the house to the car and the car to the pool or gym that was all I asked of it.”

She was then offered the chance to wear a C-Leg – and hasn’t looked back!

“This was the start of my life returning top something along the lines of what I used to know.

“It’s allowing me to do the things that I loved doing before my amputation.”