The organisation that funds wheelchair usage in St. Helens has cut access to the service, blaming NHS cost pressures for the move.
NHS St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group, (CCG) said a “significant increase” in the number of people accessing the service for short- and longer-term use means it is no longer able to provide the same wheelchair service within the resources available.
It said NHS funding pressures had left it with the “uncomfortable” decision to tighten the rules so that it can continue to provide wheelchair services that it has an obligation to provide.
From this month, the St Helens Wheelchair Service is no longer providing new transit or pool wheelchairs to care homes. It has also axed new wheelchairs for service users on short-term loans or for social purposes only and attendant-controlled power chairs.
Existing transit or pool wheelchair stock in care homes will continue to be repaired and serviced by CCG staff until it is no longer cost-effective to do so. Care home residents who require a wheelchair for their personal use only will not be affected by this change, however.
Users that require wheelchairs for short-term and outdoor use only will now be signposted to local providers such as Shopmobility, where they can hire or purchase at a subsidised rate.
People who already have wheelchairs under this arrangement will continue to have their chairs serviced and repaired until it is not viable to do so. In other words when a wheelchair reaches the end of its useful life it will not be replaced.
From now on, people who need attendant-controlled power chairs can apply for funding through an Individual Funding Request (IFR) via their GP.
People who already have wheelchairs under this arrangement will continue to have them repaired and replaced indefinitely, CCG said.