§ Mr. Carter-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consideration his Department has given to the report, sent to him by the hon. Member for Eccles, about the assistance given to severely disabled children by the device known as the swivel walker; what his Department is doing to promote continued research into its refinement and to make it more generally available on the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this important matter. I was pleased to see the report inThe Guardian about the further work being undertaken on the device at Salford University. A research team there has been developing swivel walkers for several disabled children over several years. Since 1975, it has been engaged on a project financed by a grant of ever £60,000 from my Department, working in collaboration with a clinical team at the Salford Royal Hospital. I was very glad when, as related in The Guardian's report, an additional grant of £33,684 was made by Action Research for the Crippled Child. This further assistance will, I understand, enable the project to be expanded.
Swivel walkers consist of a frame, which supports the disabled person in an upright position, with a swivelling footplate assembly under each foot. The disabled person is able to move about by using twisting movements of the arms and shoulders which are transferred by the frame to enable him to pivot about each footplate alternately, thus generating a walking motion. The earliest versions of the swivel walker—suitable for young children—have been available to National Health Service hospitals since 1973, and health authorities have just been told that a new larger-sized 66W model can now be ordered. The special feature of the new experimental design described in The Guardian's report is that it allows the disabled person to move from a sitting to a standing position and back again.
Development work on swivel walkers, supported by my Department, is also being undertaken by a team at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital at Oswestry; and I hope the result of this work will enable disabled people to transfer more quickly and easily from a bed or chair to a swivel walker.
It is my intention to provide swivel walkers through the National Health Service in a range of sizes suited to the needs of patients of varying ages as these are developed. As new developments become available in this way detailed information about them is provided to hospital consultants, and it is for them to judge whether the devices would be of help to particular patients.