Labour conference hears from people prescribed ‘the wrong wheelchair’

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Delegates at the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton have listened to complaints about current NHS wheelchair services which were accused of having a long waiting list, abiding by a ‘post code lottery’ system and in some cases prescribing inappropriate equipment.

One party member complainant described how having the ‘wrong wheelchair’ causes her pain and regular dislocations and that funding for wheelchairs under the current Tory regime is ‘a post code lottery’, according to the Press Association.

Rebecca Boot, who has hypermobility, estimates that the correct wheelchair would cost her between £10,000 and £12,000 and has decided to crowdfund for a new one. Crowdfunding is increasingly popular as frustrated people are turning to dealers for equipment after feeling let down by public services.

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Speaking at the conference, Ms Boot told delegates: “Most wheelchair funding comes from the NHS but this service is underfunded but overstretched. A safe wheelchair which works properly should be a right, not a privilege.

“This wheelchair, this powerchair, costs around £2,500 and that’s at the bottom end of the market. The chair I need costs four times as much.

Last month, new data showed that there is a huge imbalance in the chances of getting mobility equipment like wheelchairs on the NHS, and the post code lottery is leading people to buy equipment privately.

And earlier this year, doctors at the British Medical Association said that more people are turning to online crowfunding so that they can buy more lightweight and suitable mobility equipment from private providers. That’s because NHS cuts are making it too difficult to access wheelchairs that are appropriate for their needs, they said.

These claims followed news that the amount of money raised for wheelchairs on JustGiving shot up by around 78% between 2015 and 2016, from £365,000 to £1.8m, indicating that people are increasingly turning to dealers for equipment rather than relying on NHS services.

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