NHS England is working together with a range of people and organisations to improve wheelchair services, and to ensure that all wheelchair users receive the best possible support for their needs.
Following two wheelchair summits in 2014, NHS England committed to providing CCGs with more help in commissioning more effective, higher-quality wheelchair services, and has been providing the following support:
- Establishing a national wheelchair dataset
- Developing a national wheelchair tariff
- Publishing a model wheelchair service specification. The specification is a non-mandatory tool available to CCGs to help them commission higher-quality wheelchair services.
- Leading the development and introduction of personal wheelchair budgets; in order to enable enhanced collaboration between commissioners and providers and give people greater choice over the wheelchair provided.
NHS Planning Guidance now includes wheelchairs as an area for CCGs to make improvement plans, specifically with regard to how they will achieve 100% in relation to the 18 week Referral to Treatment standard waiting time. NHS England is holding CCGs to account for performance against this target through the CCG assurance programme.
Wheelchairs provide a significant gateway to independence, well-being and quality of life for thousands of adults and children. They play a substantial role in facilitating social inclusion and improving life chances through work, education and activities that many people who do not need wheelchairs take for granted.
Yet the wheelchair services provided by the NHS often fall short of meeting the needs of wheelchair users. Too often wheelchair users find that their social, professional and leisure activities are not enhanced, but instead limited by the sub-optimal chairs that are supplied.
For people with complex, long term conditions, being able to access the right wheelchair, quickly, and with appropriate support, is of paramount importance.
Although there are plenty of examples of good practice and dedicated staff around the country, unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. People often find themselves waiting a long time for wheelchairs, or sometimes develop secondary health complications resulting from an unsuitable wheelchair.