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‘Alarming’ figures show wheelchair provision is ‘still postcode lottery’, say charities

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It has been four years since the NHS signed a charter declaring wheelchair provision should be equal regardless of age or postcode, but new figures show provision is still falling short.

Charities have described the data, which shows thousands of disabled children across the UK are still waiting months for a suitable wheelchair, as “alarming”.

One in five children needing a wheelchair are waiting longer than the 18 week target set out by the NHS, with disparities across the country.

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Less than one in three children needing wheelchairs received it within the 18 week period in some parts of the country.

The figures, which were analysed by Health Service Journal, show that unsurprisingly, children requiring specialist equipment have to wait the longest periods.

Dave Bracher, campaigns manager at the Spinal Injuries Association, told The Telegraph: “These alarming statistics show a continued widespread postcode lottery that is affecting some of the most vulnerable disabled children in society, including those with spinal cord injuries.

“These delays inevitably affect a child’s rehabilitation and daily life – such as attending school, contributing to family, and being with friends and therefore has significant long term consequences”.

According to the data, more than 80% of children received a wheelchair within the 18 week period in 2017-18, compared to a target of more than 90%.

A new target of 100% has been set for next March.

Children needing a wheelchair in Darlington, Rotherham, Portsmouth, South Lincolnshire, West Hampshire, Southampton, and West Suffolk had to wait longest for their wheelchairs, on average.

CCGs across the board insist they are working with equipment providers to drive waiting times down but face increasing cost challenges.

A spokesman from NHS England told The Telegraph: “The new target has been introduced to drive improvements in access to and availability of wheelchairs for children across every part of the country, however there will be cases for example where children chose bespoke wheelchairs which may take longer to arrive.”

Tags : ccgchildren's wheelchairNHSWheelchairwheelchair provision
Joe Peskett

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