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, according to doctors at the British Medical Association (BMA).
Doctors have said that financial cuts and delays in services have meant disabled people have gone online for funding. Doctors have now called for users to have “timely access to chairs suitable for their individual conditions”.
At the BMA’s representative meeting in Bournemouth, Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, a junior doctor in London, said that standard NHS chairs weigh around 20kg which makes them unsuitable for many patients.
“More and more I’m seeing on social media pleas from people begging for support to buy wheelchairs, not only chairs like this – lightweight, self-propelling chairs – but electric chairs”
At the meeting she said: “I had to crowdfund my wheelchair halfway through medical school when I was told that it was going to cost around £2,000 to get this chair and the NHS were able to offer me a £140 voucher or a chair which was not remotely ergonomic.
“That was ultimately going to do me more harm than good so my best friend set up a crowdfunding page for me and managed to raise £2,000 in 24 hours. NHS chairs are very heavy and very hard to manoeuvre. In terms of public transport I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere in an NHS chair unless there was someone with me helping me. You need to be pushed. More and more I’m seeing on social media pleas from people begging for support to buy wheelchairs, not only chairs like this – lightweight, self-propelling chairs – but electric chairs.
Dr Barham-Brown added that publicly provided wheelchairs are now hard to access because of stricter guidelines and increasingly privatised wheelchair services.
Meanwhile, London-based anaesthetics associate specialist Amir Landeck said his experience of getting an NHS wheelchair for his three-year daughter had been ‘disgusting’ and ‘ridiculous’.
“We were offered one which was so cumbersome it barely would move. [They] told us she was too well for a light one and that only very ill kids with degenerative diseases get a light one. [This] is not true either – which I found out later,” Dr Landeck added.
“If you don’t buy wheelchairs from companies that they have an arrangement with they won’t repair it either, he told the meeting. So not only did we buy a lighter wheelchair out of our own pocket but had to pay for maintenance too. We got penalised for trying to get the most adequate and appropriate wheelchair for our daughter.”
Dr Barham-Brown told the conference that 15% of wheelchair users wait more than a year to get one.
“People are waiting. People are trapped in their homes. People are desperate to be able to exercise, socialise, and contribute to society. If we give them the right chair at the right time we can protect their health for the future and allow them to be the people they really, really want them to be.”