John’s story

John, aged 51 and from Lincolnshire, is a skilled engineer. He was left paraplegic after a motorcycle accident. John uses his personal health budget to pay for mechanical parts so he can build high specification customised power wheelchairs for himself, to help avoid muscle spasms and to maintain his active lifestyle.

In 1997, I had a motorcycle accident which left me in a coma for six weeks. I ended up staying in hospital for one year.

I have been paraplegic ever since. I live alone and receive a social care direct payment which enables me to employ carers to help me in the morning and evening with activities such as washing and dressing.

I lead an extremely busy life that includes going to regular physiotherapy, taking my dog for daily walks to the beach, woods and parks, socialising with friends and travelling long distances to pursue my hobby of flying remote-controlled model aircraft.

“Before the personal health budget, the NHS powerchairs offere to me were unable to meet my needs.”

So I require a power wheelchair that is durable, can take my weight over big distances and uneven ground, does not get stuck in muddy fields or sandy beaches and has a long-life battery. But it also must be compact for indoor use and when driving a vehicle. I also suffer from muscle spasm, induced by vibration. So a smooth ride on rough streets is essential.

Before the personal health budget, the NHS powerchairs offered to me were unable to meet my needs. In my opinion their overall design and control systems would not be suitable to enable me to get out and about as I needed, walk the dog, or even comfortably get to the hospital for my physiotherapy. Such powerchairs did not have the battery-life or ability to handle terrain such as sand or mud. For example, if I took the dog to the beach I might be left stranded half-way back because of lack of range or power. The powerchairs on the market with their hard, skinny tyres gave me muscle spasms from the vibration and harshness. Because of my busy lifestyle, even the best powerchairs would last one year at the most. I was frustrated and felt that I could do better myself.

So, I decided to use my own engineering skills and knowledge to build my own customised powerchairs. I paid for all the parts and required machinery from my social care direct payment.

“Because of my busy lifestyle, even the best powerchairs would last one year at the most. I was frustrated and felt that I could do better myself.”

However, last year it was arranged for me to apply for a personal health budget. An occupational therapist first assessed my powerchair requirements, based on what I have described above, and then we discussed the funds needed for such a powerchair, and the costs for it be maintained.

“The personal health budget has enabled me to build one customised wheelchair, and start a second as a back-up.”

I was awarded a personal health budget, and in my care plan I recorded how I wanted to spend my budget on customising my own powerchairs, to achieve my health and mobility needs.

I chose to receive the funds as a direct payment for health care into a separate bank account so I could build and maintain the powerchairs myself. I keep all the receipts.

The personal health budget has enabled me to build one customised wheelchair, and start a second as a back-up. I source or make all the parts individually.

The benefits of the powerchairs I construct include:

  • Having a lighter but more powerful lithium battery which lasts all day, and enables the powerchair to cover three times the range of other powerchairs.
  • Being extremely compact and light for use around my home, in my van and in restaurants etc.
  • Having high-flotation, puncture-resistant, tubeless off-road tyres for a smoother ride in sand, snow and mud.
  • Non-corrosive parts for greater service life.

One of my own powerchairs will last three years. If I was to use the funds to buy an NHS-approved powerchair, it would need replacing after just one year through my heavy use!

I need a powerchair that enables me to pursue my active life and reduces my muscle spasms. Without the powerchairs that I have constructed using my personal health budget, I would not be able to live my life.