THE head of a Newport-based neuro-physiotherapy clinic has welcomed a German court ruling he hopes will pave the way for spinal cord injury patients to benefit from pioneering technology to help them walk again.

A recent regional social welfare court ruling in Germany means an insurance company must pay for a revolutionary exoskeleton body suit for a man who suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident.

Last June, the Morrello Clinic in Langstone enabled patients, most of whom had not been able to walk for years, to test an exoskeleton body suit, the first time such technology had been used in Wales.

One patient, Paul Cooksey from Shropshire who is paralysed from the chest down and had not walked in 10 years, used the battery-powered medical version of an exoskeleton originally developed for the US military to walk around a room at the clinic and afterwards described the device as "unbelievable."

The cost - around £100,000 - is prohibitive, and they are not available on the NHS.

But Morrello Clinic managing director Jakko Brouwers hopes the German court ruling will help make obtaining the device a reality for people with spinal cord injuries in the UK who claim from insurance companies following injuries as a result of accidents.

“We trialled the use of bionic exoskeletons in our clinic with three of our clients. Under careful supervision, all three were able to use the suit to stand and take their first steps since the catastrophic accidents that caused their spinal cord injuries," he said.

"The use of these suits on a daily basis would have significant health and mental benefits.

"They help empower patients by enabling them to leave their wheelchairs and independently move around.

"It helps improve confidence, encourages the movement and exercise of parts of the body that are not being used when sat in a wheelchair and as the technology further develops, the suits will add a greater range of functionality to significantly improve quality of life."

Mr Brouwers is aware of similar UK cases to that of the German claimant, a Mr Philip Hollinger. He had trialled an exoskeleton and claimed for one on his insurance. his insurance company refused, leading to the court case which he won.

"Insurance companies will argue that the use of an exoskeleton system is not essential from a medical perspective and the provision of a wheelchair will suffice," said Mr Brouwers.

"In this German court’s ruling, they determined that an exoskeleton is a medical aid. It is not comparable to a wheelchair and should be included in the claim, as well as a wheelchair.

"I am confident that there will be similar challenges made in the UK courts and will be very interested to see if the individuals receive the same successful outcome."