AN AWARD-WINNING Southampton health centre providing “life changing” care for people with muscle wasting conditions has been awarded a prestigious national title.

The Wessex Neurological Centre based at Southampton General Hospital offers support for three million people across the South suffering disorders affecting the brain, spine and nerves.

Now it has been has been awarded as a national Centre of Excellence after being hailed for its “outstanding care” for people with muscle wasting conditions.

Southampton is one of three centres today given the status has presented the department with the title as part of a rigorous UK-wide audit of neuromuscular services by a panel of leading experts.

The trio are one of only 10 neuromuscular departments in the county to meet the charity’s specialist criteria in what is the second national audit of the country’s services.

More than 70,000 adults and children in Britain suffer from Muscular Dystrophy – including 1,320 people in Hampshire.

The incurable group of genetic muscle wasting conditions leads to progressive weakening of muscles affecting their movements and ability to walk and even smile and can become life threatening by weakening the heart or muscles used for breathing.

Katie Hammond, 29, from Eastleigh, has received support for the last three years for the condition Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) which she inherited from her mother.

It has wasted Katie’s leg muscles so much she has to walk with sticks and she added: “The support I have received has given me my life back. Without the expert team at Southampton I would feel totally alone and isolated – it’s been life-changing.

“Having a progressive condition for which there is currently no treatment or cure is very daunting, but the centre has really made it more manageable. They definitely deserve this award today - if it wasn’t for them I would have given up a long time ago.”

Dr Simon Hammans a lead consultant neurologist at the centre, hailed it as “great news” and added: “More importantly it’s fantastic for our patients to see their hospital recognised as one of the country’s leading centres for neuromuscular conditions with a desire to maintain clinical excellence.”

Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK said: “The right specialist care can transform quality of life, and in many cases, extend the lives of children and adults living with muscle-wasting conditions. We warmly congratulate Dr Simon Hammans and the excellent team in Southampton for the high standards and expertise that we hope will be adopted in other parts of the country.”