The NHS’s national project lead, who is responsible for phasing in the new personal wheelchair budgets system, is driving to communicate to the mobility industry the positive changes the new system hopes to bring.
In the short term one of the NHS’s main challenges is to convince the industry that the new model is beneficial. It hopes that gathering feedback and information from its personal wheelchair budget test sites around the country will help with this as the roll-out starts.
National project lead Kate Buffery commented: “It’s fair to say that nobody likes change. Some people have struggled to see ‘the why’, and that’s been our real challenge, to get that across, to explain that it’s about supporting the providers to have a better work experience too.”
One of the scheme’s long term goals, Buffery explained, is that more suitable equipment can be accessed more frequently by service-users. This would certainly be well-greeted by suppliers and it goes without saying that end-users will be able to live higher quality lives with more suitable wheelchairs and powerchairs.
Currently, NHS England has 11 ‘champion sites’ it is working with to develop the personal wheelchair budgets model before it is rolled out further. Their task is to garner feedback from both end-users and the organisations and providers they’re working with so the model can be tweaked and honed.
Much of the feedback from these pilot areas has been promising and bodes well for the scheme. From the providers’ perspective, many have been pleased with the new recognition from commissioners about what they do and the impact it has, Buffery said. She added that providers in some areas hadn’t had their contracts looked at “for a little while” so have enjoyed being brought into the wider thinking with commissioners.
While some providers may be eyeing changes with suspicion, those who embrace the alterations to the wheelchair services model and work to adapt their own businesses accordingly are likely to gain the upper hand when it comes to the fierce competition for tenders.
Likewise, private resellers outside of wheelchair service agreements who take note of the changes and adjust their strategy appropriately can get ahead of their own rivals. No one will know fully how the budget system will impact on the industry until after the April roll-out, but until then it would be wise for businesses who are serious about making the most of the new model to consider their strategy.