Millions of patients denied use of a wheelchair

Research by the British Red Cross suggests 4 million people miss out due to UK-wide shortages.

Everybody desires a degree of independence. Jamie Hale

Denis Campbell, The Guardian 27 July 2018

More than 4 million people a year have been denied the use of a wheelchair despite needing one after breaking a leg or having surgery, the British Red Cross has claimed.

While those who needed a wheelchair for at least six months were generally given one, people needing it for less time often went without, the charity said.

UK-wide shortages of wheelchairs are leading to people becoming housebound and isolated, according to the charity, which claimed that dying people were among those affected.

“It’s unacceptable that people with injuries, social care needs or even those with terminal illness find themselves scrabbling around to get something so basic,” said Mike Adamson, the chief executive of the British Red Cross.

“Instead of being able to socialise, get to appointments or to work, people are ending up trapped in their homes, becoming isolated and delaying their recovery,” he said.

“Every day we see the huge impact something as simple as a wheelchair can make to someone suffering with a broken limb, recovering from surgery or even during end of life care – getting out to see family and friends, and even attending a family wedding, activities that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”

The Red Cross surveyed 139 NHS wheelchair services across the UK, of which 114 could not provide wheelchairs for short-term use of less than six months.

The existence of a “postcode lottery” in the availability of wheelchairs for that time was shortsighted because they enabled patients to leave hospital sooner than they might have otherwise done, the charity said.

The Red Cross estimated that 4.3 million people a year were missing out on a wheelchair based on a survey of 4,000 people across the UK. Of those, 8.1% had medical or social care needs that would have been alleviated if they had been able to use a wheelchair or mobility aid for a short while. However, just 1.1% of them got the help they needed, the research showed.

The Red Cross, which lends wheelchairs to 60,000 people a year, wants the NHS to be obliged by law to provide the devices on a short-term basis.

“This important report must serve as an urgent wake-up call to the government”, said Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary.

“Restricting access to wheelchairs or mobility aids has proven negative mental and physical impacts on patients’ health, wellbeing and sense of independence. The new health secretary should therefore make every effort to end this unacceptable postcode lottery in provision.”

NHS England said the clinical commissioning groups it funds – which hold the health budget in local areas – were responsible for access to wheelchairs.

“Local GP-led health groups are responsible for securing and funding wheelchair services for patients. For people with long-term mobility needs, the NHS has introduced personal budgets to give them more choice on the best wheelchair for them.”

Source The Guardian

Also see
I’ve been told to wait three years for a wheelchair that ‘can go outside’ in The Guardian
NHS delays leave thousands facing long wait for wheelchairs in The Guardian
Need a wheelchair? Pay for it yourself in The Guardian
Access Intimacy: The Missing Link in Leaving Evidence

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