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Last Updated: Monday, 25 August, 2003, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Apology over limb 'mix-up'
Ingrid Nicholls
Ms Nicholls said she felt hurt
A health authority has apologised after a black patient due to have a foot amputated was offered a white prosthetic replacement.

Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority said a "misunderstanding" had led to the hospital telling Ingrid Nicholls she would have to pay for an artificial limb if she wanted it to match her skin colour.

Ms Nicholls, from Calcot in Berkshire, who has yet to undergo her operation, told BBC News 24 she felt "angry and hurt" by her treatment.

Following her complaint, the primary care trust said funding had been found to offer the 46-year-old a black prosthetic limb.

A spokeswoman for the Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority said: "This appears to be a misunderstanding, and we are sorry for the upset and hurt that has been caused."

She said all prostheses are available on the NHS and paid for by the local primary care trust.

"We are talking to all those involved in the care of this patient to clarify matters and reach a satisfactory conclusion," she added.

There is no local agreement only to fit white prosthetic limbs
Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority
Ms Nicholls said the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading had shown her white prosthetic limbs and told she would have to pay for a darker one.

"I was absolutely devastated and I felt that, you know, this is a ridiculous situation," she said.

"I had to make a joke of it at the time because, obviously, I am mixed race and I said, 'Oh that's taking it a little bit too far'. But I was so angry and hurt.

"It's very sad, not only for myself but other people in a similar position, that it has to come to this to get what I would call an equal service.

"It's like asking a white person to have a black limb. It's just not right, it's undignified."

'Disgrace'

A spokeswoman for the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trust said having six separate NHS Primary Care Trusts in the county had made funding difficult but money had subsequently been made available following discussions.

She said: "She was originally told she would have to pay more for any other colour, but that has now been resolved."

Ms Nichols
Ms Nichols has yet to undergo her operation
The trusts would be working together "to address this issue and clarify funding for future cases", she added.

A Disability Rights Commission spokesman said: "It is an absolute disgrace.

"Disabled people shouldn't have to put up with a one-size-fits-all attitude.

"They should be entitled to the same choices as non-disabled people."

Dr Evan Harris MP, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said it was "clearly unacceptable".

"Prosthetic replacements are not just functional but have a cosmetic role too. It is a nonsense if they only come in one colour."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jon Brain
"Officials at the Department of Health admit that what happened was unacceptable"


Ingrid Nicholls
"I was absolutely devastated and disgusted with the whole system"



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