Healthwatch calls for improvements in local wheelchair services

The wheelchair service is often poorly co-ordinated, with people waiting too long for wheelchairs and repairs says Sitting Comfortably, our new report published today.
woman in wheelchair smiling

This report tells the stories of more than 80 local people who use wheelchair services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The service provides chairs to meet the often complex individual needs of adults and children who are unable to walk, or who have a long term disability that makes walking difficult.

Sitting Comfortably is a result of joint work with Pinpoint, Cambridgeshire Alliance for Independent Living, Healthwatch Peterborough and Family Voice.

Together, we found a high level of dissatisfaction with the service, with 40% of people saying care was poor or very poor. Half of all people we spoke to as part of our survey waited more than 18 weeks for their wheelchair, with less than a quarter getting their chairs in under a month. 

As a frequent NHS user, the wheelchair service is one of the only areas which I have had to make complaints about. It is poorly organised, inefficient and could be much, much better.

More than half the people who completed our survey said their chair met their needs; however, a large number people did not agree with this.

One person told us, 

‘The wheels are positioned too far back for our son’s arms to comfortably be in the correct position to propel himself.’

Another said,

‘The chair isn’t wheelchair pusher friendly as the anti-tip is badly positioned so one kicks it constantly.’

We also heard lots of stories about the difficulties people faced in getting their wheelchairs maintained or repaired and the problems these delays caused both the wheelchair user and their carers.

'‘If something breaks on my chair, I’m stuck. But nobody seems to care that I may not be able to move from my bed, never mind my house.’

Families of children and young people talked about difficulties getting their child’s wheelchair needs reviewed regularly, as they grew and their disability changed. Adults also told us about difficulties getting their chairs updated as their needs changed.

Who is responsible for wheelchair services

Local wheelchair services are planned and paid for by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who will be re-tendering these services. They have welcomed our work to listen to wheelchair users and their carers.  We want local wheelchair users and their carers involved in any re-tendering process, so they can help make sure the service specification meets their needs.

The service is currently contracted to an organisiation called Provide, who assess people and provides their wheelchairs, and Bartrams who help to maintain the chairs. 

Sitting Comfortably makes three important recommendations to improve services:

  1. To set and meet clearer response times for people who use the service.
  2. Better co-ordination between different parts of the service.
  3. Be more responsive to the individual needs of wheelchair users and their families and carers.

We have sent our report to Provide, Bartrams and the CCG, so they can respond to the recommendations we have set out to help improve wheelchair services. 

What happened next - updated 14 September 2016

Provide responded to the Sitting Comfortably report on 7 September; you can read what they said below. They have apologised to people who have not been happy with their care and told us what they have been doing to make care better under each of the recommendations we made. 

We are still waiting for a response from Bartrams.

We are currently talking the CCG and Cambridgeshire County Council about what they can do to help improve care by involving wheelchair service users and carers in any re-tendering of the service. 


Sitting Comfortably report

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