Patients in the U.K. will be able to get hand and upper arm transplants on the state, National Health Service (NHS) England announced on Friday.
The healthcare body said that a center at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust would start to assess the suitability of adult candidates and begin performing the "highly-complex procedure from April."
"The NHS is leading the world in offering this cutting-edge procedure, which has been shown to significantly improve the quality of life for patients who meet the strict criteria," Dr Jonathan Fielden, NHS England's Director of Specialized Commissioning, said in a news release.
The center at Leeds, in the north of England, is led by Professor Simon Kay, a consultant plastic surgeon who in 2012 performed the U.K.'s first hand transplant.
According to NHS England, hand and upper limb transplants can improve the quality of a patient's life. If the procedure is successful, over time the hand will be able to heal itself if it's injured, gain dexterity and strength, and feel warm to the touch.
"We are delighted to be confirmed as the provider of this new service," Kay said. "The extensive multi-professional expert team here at Leeds is keen to now assess new patient referrals and benefit patients and their families in a way they may never have thought possible before," he added.
Founded in 1948, the NHS is based on the idea that healthcare should be available to everyone, irrespective of wealth. As such, all care on the NHS is free at the point of delivery.