Disabled children wait up to two years for wheelchairs

The NHS was told to stop relying on charities to fill funding gaps after figures revealed many trusts would not pay the full cost of electric wheelchairs for disabled children leaving patients facing a postcode lottery

Freedom of information figures obtained by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign found children were subject to a postcode lottery in terms of equipment.

Statistics from 54% of NHS trusts in England and Scotland revealed that disabled children in England are forced to wait five months on average for a wheelchair.

The worst performing primary care trust (PCT), East Lancashire, in the north-west of England, had an average wait of two years for an electric wheelchair.

The survey showed 58% of children in England had to wait at least three months for an electric wheelchair and 14% waited more than six months.

In the case of Westminster and Islington PCTs in London, children living just four miles apart could have a difference of 11 months in waiting time.

Overall, 50% of the PCTs that responded said they did not fund the full cost of a powered wheelchair for a disabled child.

Westminster PCT made an average contribution of only £700 towards the cost of a child’s powered wheelchair, it said.

Almost all PCTs contacted by the charity said the cost of a wheelchair was around £2,000 but in fact the true cost of a basic electric wheelchair would be around £3,000.

A separate patient survey of 237 children found one in three did not receive any funding at all for their wheelchair.

Philip Butcher, chief executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said: “Today’s figures are nothing short of a national scandal.

“It is a damning indictment of the NHS that so many families across the UK are forced to rely on charities or be driven into financial hardship just to receive vital, life-improving equipment for their disabled children.

“It’s time the NHS stopped relying on charities to fill the gaps left by its inadequate funding.”

Two PCTs in the West Midlands – Birmingham East and North, and South Birmingham – have waiting times for a powered wheelchair of 18 months compared to a national average of just under five months, the report said.


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