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Wheelchair Alliance calls for action on wheelchair services

New report calls for more to be done to enhance the lives of wheelchair users, their families and carers.

The Wheelchair Alliance has partnered with Motability, and Frontier Economics, on the publication of a new report calling for more to be done to enhance the lives of wheelchair users, their families and carers. ‘An Economic Assessment of Wheelchair Provision in England’ is the first time independently verified research has been published revealing the experiences of wheelchair users, and includes a series of recommendations on how more work, resources and investment are all required to properly meet the needs of wheelchair users.

The key finding of the comprehensive report, and this won’t come as a surprise to many spinal cord injured people, is that wheelchair services in England are not working. To start with, funding levels are unacceptable; Government funds spent on wheelchair users equates to an average of  £125 per person per year, including the cost of a wheelchair, expert support as well as infrastructure costs. This level of underfunding has remained the same for at least five years, and therefore an urgent review is needed for wheelchair support to be protected.

The funding issue is compounded by a significant lack of accurate wheelchair user data. The report shows that it’s only by understanding the true demand for wheelchairs and providers that NHS England can commission appropriate services. Adequate funding requires accurate wheelchair user data, so their families and carers can be confident that they will be treated equitably wherever they live in England. This means all types of wheelchair services must offer regular data based on outcomes to ensure accountability and reduce regional differences.

Report recommendations

The report makes three recommendations:

  1. The adoption of the Model Service Specification for Wheelchair and Posture services to ensure the standardisation of service provision.
  2. All NHS organisations and contract providers to be subject to more rigorous, mandated regulation.
  3. A full review of the scale of demand for wheelchair services, to enable the filling of existing and future skills gaps.

The Wheelchair Alliance believes that all integrated care systems and other related organisations that commission the provision of wheelchairs must prioritise wheelchair services – for too long, wheelchair users, their families and carers have said trying to get the wheelchair they need, and have been assessed for, is a postcode lottery, and this level of inequity has to be addressed.

Download the report here