Wheelchair service provider given £1m from CCG to clear user backlog

Ability Matters Group’s HQ

Wheelchair services provider Opcare, which is part of Ability Matters Group, has received £1m from commissioners in Kirklees and Calderdale to help tackle waiting lists in the area.

Opcare won a three-year contract worth £4.5m in 2014 to provide wheelchair services in the two boroughs and inherited a waiting list time of seven months.

The additional funding is designed to reduce waiting lists further after a 2017 survey reportedly stated that some service users were unhappy with ‘customer service, waiting times, unsuitable equipment and repairs service’.

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But Neil James, Chief Operating Officer at Ability Matters, told AMP that when Opcare took the contract on it became apparent that the number of patients coming into the service “greatly exceeded what was quoted in the tender, by nearly 40% in year one”.

“The additional funding provided by the CCGs addresses the gap between the funding allocated and demand, and we really welcome this news, as it will allow us to provide the best standard of care to service users.

“Since notification of this funding, we have significantly reduced waiting lists and we will be able to exceed national targets in coming months.

“We are working closely with the CCGs to plan service improvements accordingly, and look forward to further optimising our service to better meet users’ needs.”

A spokesperson for patient group Healthwatch Kirklees, Clare Costello, told a local newspaper that the NHS must “make sure that we don’t fail people in this way again”.

She told the Huddersfield Examiner: “We’re grateful to all of the people who have told us their stories over the last 12 months because it is those stories that have highlighted the need for change and additional funding.”

Director of the group, Rory Deighton, added: “At its heart this is a story about underfunding in the NHS.

“Our local NHS organisations are being asked to make massive savings; our hospitals are millions of pounds in debt.

“Under this kind of financial pressure, key services like wheelchairs, providing critical support to many of the most vulnerable people in our community, are coming under pressure as well.

“Being told by government that the NHS has never been better funded is unhelpful.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Calderdale, Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs, said: “Working closely with the wheelchair service provider, service users and other stakeholders, we have agreed a range of actions designed to reduce waiting times and improve other elements of the service for users, their families and carers.

“To support these improvements the CCGs have made additional investment in the service.

“Looking forward, we are in the process of carrying out a full review of the wheelchair service so that in the future it is better able to meet local needs.”

Opcare’s current contract will extend until October.

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