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Tuesday, 31 July 2012 (3029185)
NHS 'cost cutting' blamed for pain
by David Simister

A WHEELCHAIR bound businessman fears he could be left in crippling pain because healthcare officials have offered him a “significantly cheaper” back brace.

Brian Smith, who has been paralysed from the neck down since he was involved in a skiing accident as a teenager, has been refused a like-for-like replacement of the brace he has used to support his back for years.

Doctors at Southport Hospital's spinal care unit ruled out a replacement support, known as a Laceit brace, which costs £420, offering instead a cheaper £150 brace.

Mr Smith says the cheaper brace is unsuitable for his severe condition and is concerned it will inhibit his active lifestyle including running his own business.

Mr Smith, who lives with his wife and son at New Street, Mawdesley, said: “I tried the cheaper brace for two days about a month ago and it was clear it wasn't suitable for me, but the hospital won't agree to give me a new one.

”I've kept the old Laceit brace and the plastic on the outer shell has snapped, so now that one hurts whenever I use it. At the moment, I'll be in pain whatever happens. This isn't about my clinical needs - it's a numbers game, pure and simple. I defintely think someone is cost-cutting here“

Mr Smith, who runs Rufford Printing Company, based at Cedar Farm, Mawdesley, said that he had decided to continue using his old brace instead of using the cheaper one offered to him at the hospital, but said that because the old frame was deteriorating it was causing him discomfort and cuts his skin.

Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, however, ruled out paying for the more expensive Laceit brace, and told The Champion that there is ‘no difference' between the two braces other than the price.

A spokesman for the trust said: ”We now supply the same brace to all our spinal injuries patients whether they have new or old injuries. There is no clinical reason to support the purchase of the brace Mr Smith wants because there is no difference between the two devices other than the Laceit brace being more expensive.

“We have offered to prove there is no clinical difference - with regards to supporting the spine - between the brace he has previously received and the brace we are now using by taking x-rays of him in both devices.”

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He claims that while he asked for a replacement for the Laceit brace


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