Open letter to the UK Government
We call on the government to address the state of wheelchair services across the nation
Dear Prime Minister
Whizz-Kidz, the UK’s leading charity for young wheelchair users, welcomes the recent release of Frontier Economic’s report, An Economic Assessment of Wheelchair Provision in England. The report echoes what we know all too well from working with young wheelchair users over the past three decades – NHS wheelchair services are underfunded, inaccessible, and fractured. We are calling on the UK government to work with us to implement the following reforms to wheelchair services informed by the latest evidence in this report:
NHS wheelchair services should be integrated with other local services, such as education, social care and housing services, to deliver a holistic service for wheelchair users. This will ensure that they receive the right equipment that allows them to fully access and navigate the spaces in which they live, grow, learn, or work. Integrated care is already at the heart of our Tower Hamlets NHS wheelchair service which has driven innovations in wheelchair equipment, enhanced the social mobility of wheelchair users, and created significant cost-savings to the social care sector. This model is effective and should be scaled.
Review the NHS Model Wheelchair Service Specification to improve the eligibility and issuing criteria for a wheelchair. The criteria currently differs across services, meaning wheelchair users with similar needs can receive different or unsuitable equipment, or no equipment at all. Such reform is critical for children – especially aged 5 and under – who, in most cases will only be offered a buggy. This unrightfully compromises their mobility, independence, and growth and development.
All wheelchair services in England should be regulated by an independent national body, such as the Care Quality Commission or similar. This will further ensure that any service that a wheelchair user and their family or carer encounters across the NHS, or the private or charity sector, is accountable, fair, and delivers consistent quality.
The evidence is clear that such reforms will make a significant contribution to the health and social care outcomes for wheelchair users and their families, drive efficiencies in service delivery, and ultimately generate cost-savings to government. Whizz-Kidz is committed to partnering with government and the sector to deliver on these priorities.