Disabled children wait up to two years for wheelchairs
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.