A black woman facing the amputation of her lower leg was promised yesterday that it would be replaced with an artificial limb of the appropriate colour after being told earlier that only white ones were available.
Ingrid Nicholls, 46, was shocked and upset when doctors told her that artificial limbs in the NHS came in only one colour - pink - and if she wanted one to match her own complexion she would have to pay £3,000.
Ms Nicholls, from Reading, said: "It doesn't make sense. We have black cabinet ministers, judges and doctors - but apparently only false limbs for white people. It is so unjust."
Ms Nicholls had had problems with her left leg since developing an infection in her hip shortly after birth. She had two hip replacements, but after a recent bone-fusing operation failed doctors told her she might have to have her leg amputated below the knee.
She was referred from the Royal Berkshire Hospital to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford, where she saw a specialist in prosthetic limbs, James Morrison.
Mr Morrison later wrote to her consultant in Reading: "Ms Nicholls was understandably concerned about the prosthesis and in particular the skin colour match. Unfortunately, although some funding has recently become available for providing more realistic skin covers, as yet this does not apply to Berkshire residents, although this could change."
The Disability Rights Commission said the decision was "an absolute disgrace" and exemplified the worst aspects of the "one size fits all" mentality of the NHS.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Thames Valley strategic health authority said there had been a mistake.
The Primary Care Trust (PCT) for Reading, which funded Ms Nicholls' care, had never ruled out paying for an appropriately coloured limb, she said. "There had been no policy decision by Reading PCT to provide only one colour. This was a misunderstanding and we are urgently looking into how it occurred."
A spokeswoman for the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trust said there had been funding difficulties but that, after discussions, money had been made available.
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