‘Massive regional imbalance’ in people getting NHS mobility equipment

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, an investigation has claimed.

BuzzFeed News’ report says that it is a post code lottery when it comes to getting a wheelchair on the NHS and that 96% of areas in England are failing to supply wheelchairs within the 18 weeks guarantee period.

Almost a quarter of people referred to GP’s for mobility equipment are not given any aids at all, the report says. The imbalance has largely been attributed to a lack of standardised eligibility criteria among NHS services across the country.

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As a result of the difficulties in securing equipment on the NHS, many disabled people are turning to online crowdfunding to buy their own wheelchairs from private dealers.

The investigation says that in some areas around 75% of people referred to wheelchair services receive no equipment at all, while in other areas everyone who applies for mobility aids is granted one.

The data reveals extremities in the system. For example in Northumberland, equipment was provided in 99.6% of cases whereas in Slough equipment was provided in just 29% of cases.

In some areas where people do receive equipment from the NHS it is not always appropriate for the user’s needs and so people have to spend money on upgrading their chair or purchase from private dealers.

“What is particularly shocking is the number of areas that offer an unsuitable basic chair but without the adaptations that make it safe to use, which can amount to three-quarters of the total cost,” Nic Bungay, a director at Muscular Dystrophy UK, told BuzzFeed.

“When it comes to wheelchairs, it is not a case of one size fits all, but the NHS in many areas won’t even allow people to put the cash value of the basic chair towards something more suitable. This means they are essentially offering some people nothing at all and demonstrates a system completely at odds with what disabled people actually need.”

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