NHS ‘has wasted more than a year’ on latest bid to improve wheelchair services
Summary: The NHS has been accused of spending more than a year on its latest bid to improve wheelchair services, while producing nothing but two conferences and a series of working groups.
Critics also fear that NHS England’s wheelchair services improvement programme has paid lip-service to the views of service-users.
They say the process is in danger of becoming the latest in a long line of failed bids to improve a service that struggles with lengthy waiting-lists and leaves many disabled people without the right wheelchairs.
There are also concerns about the influence of the disability charity Whizz-Kidz on the reform process.
NHS England organised a “wheelchair summit” in February 2014 – more than 14 months ago – with a second summit following on 27 November.
In a bid to inject some momentum into the process, NHS England set up the Wheelchair Leadership Alliance, chaired by the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson.
Its first meeting was in January, with the second taking place this week.
The alliance has been told by NHS England to produce a one-page “wheelchair charter”, but there is concern that it has not pushed for tough new standards for NHS wheelchair services.
Sir Bert Massie, the former chair of the Disability Rights Commission and himself a wheelchair-user, said he was concerned and mystified by the wheelchair improvement programme.
He told Disability News Service (DNS): “I think there is something very distasteful about this.
“I can’t work out what is going wrong. I can’t work out why it takes nearly a year to write a charter.”
He chairs the Community Equipment Code of Practice Scheme (CECOPS) social enterprise, which has already drawn up a code of practice for the community equipment industry across the UK, backed by the Care Quality Commission, the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, the Health and Safety Executive, the Royal College of Nursing and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, among others.
Sir Bert said he was frustrated by NHS England’s refusal to adopt CECOPS, which would provide a set of national standards for wheelchair services.
He said: “We have done the standards for them. They are here. What’s their problem?
“Several of the alliance members personally support our standards and have recommended their adoption, so I don’t understand NHS England’s and NHS Improving Quality’s reluctance.”
Baroness Grey-Thompson, who has only been involved in the improvement programme since November, agreed that “not a lot” had happened in the 14 months since the first summit, while the alliance had only just secured final approval from NHS England for a new website to promote its efforts.
Speaking to DNS at the Naidex 2015 independent living exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC, where she spoke about the alliance, she said: “We probably needed the second summit because of the limited movement since the first.
“Why stuff didn’t happen [before], I don’t know really. It is even difficult to pinpoint how many times people have tried to change this… because it’s ‘lots’. I don’t know if the political will wasn’t there.”
She admitted that a one-page charter was not going to improve wheelchair services on its own, but added: “The charter is a wish-list. We need a really convincing argument behind it about why it needs to change.”
She agreed that there was a need for standards, and said she did not want to “reinvent the wheel”, but insisted that there was a need to go through both an internal and public process before deciding on any standards.
According to NHS Improving Quality, an estimated 15 per cent of wheelchair-users wait more than 12 months for their NHS chair, while up to half of all people who use wheelchairs will develop a pressure sore at some point in their life.
The cost of treating the worst pressure sores can be as much as 16 hip replacements.
For every 182 wheelchair-users not able to work because of incorrect equipment or delays, the social security bill can increase by up to £1 million, compared with an economic contribution of up to £4.7 million if those wheelchair-users are able to work.
Critics of the improvement programme have pointed to a blog written by Liam Dwyer, a former building manager in the construction industry, who has motor neurone disease (MND) and uses an electric wheelchair and communication devices, and was one of the disabled people asked to attend the first wheelchair summit in February 2014.
Subsequently, he was asked to join one of six “work streams” that were set up at the summit.
After an initial meeting, he says in his blog, he did not receive any further information until he received an invitation to the second summit, in November.
He says he and other service-users were treated like “dog muck”, and “as if they don’t have a brain”.
Dwyer says in his blog: “About 30 per cent of my friends and fellow MND sufferers would be dead by now since the time the first summit took place.”
He adds: “I don’t know how long I have left on this planet and I am not prepared to sit back and let this appalling behaviour and great waste take place at the expense of dying and needy patients, especially where it impacts upon the lives of people just like me who rely totally upon equipment, not for social reasons, but just to live.”
Baroness Grey-Thompson said she would be “really upset” if service-users had not been listened to, “because they are the ones we are doing it for”.
She plans to meet with Dwyer to discuss his concerns, and added: “We do need to reinvigorate some of the work streams.”
But there are also concerns about the influence of the disability charity Whizz-Kidz on the process.
The charity, which has close links with the former NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson, is believed to have had about 10 representatives and service-users at the first wheelchair summit in February 2014 – an event that was chaired by Sir David – even though it was attended by less than 80 people.
Whizz-Kidz also has representation on both of the new sub-groups set up by the alliance, as well as a seat on the alliance itself, which has 12 members.
Sir Bert said: “Whizz-Kidz are on the alliance and have a very clear vested interest because they want to compete for services. There is a real conflict of interest.
“My fear is that they are leading the agenda and I think there needs to be a different agenda.
“The agenda should not be about who provides the services but which organisation has the competency and how to measure that competency and what is their accountability to disabled people.”
Christine Anderson, from Lancashire, whose son Christopher is a wheelchair-user, said she had noticed an “imbalanced” Whizz-Kidz presence at the first summit.
But she said: “I was filled with hope that something was going to change and people were listening.”
So far, she said, she has seen “no change, no benefit” from the process, with some disabled children still being told they have to wait three years for a powered wheelchair.
Following the first summit, she was placed on the improvement programme’s commissioning and procurement work stream, but was asked to attend just one meeting.
She said it appeared that NHS England was favouring Whizz-Kidz ahead of other organisations, without going through the necessary processes.
Baroness Grey-Thompson said she accepted that Whizz-Kidz potentially had a lot to gain from the reform of wheelchair services, and that she had to be “mindful” that one organisation did not exert too much influence over the process.
Last October, at the Conservative party conference, Ruth Owen (pictured), chief executive of Whizz-Kidz, told her charity’s fringe meeting that the NHS “does not procure in an effective and efficient way”.
She spoke of her own struggle to obtain a wheelchair through the NHS, a process she described as “tortuous”, and told DNS after the meeting that the service was “crap”.
Whizz-Kidz is believed to have partnerships with 12 NHS trusts, which aim to improve local wheelchair services – for adults as well as children – and its work was praised by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in his keynote speech to October’s party conference.
Owen told the fringe: “There needs to be more choice because this area of the NHS do not want choice, change or to listen to the customer. They don’t want to believe there is a problem, and there is a problem.”
DNS asked Whizz-Kidz for a response at noon on 29 April, but by the end of today (30 April) a spokesman said he had not had time to answer a series of questions.
Instead, he released a short statement, saying: “Whizz-Kidz is delighted to be part of the Wheelchair Alliance along with a number of other organisations, as we see wheelchair reform as vital for disabled children and young people in this country.
“Whizz-Kidz’s focus is centred on supporting young disabled people to ensure that they receive the right mobility at the right time in their lives and we’re thrilled that NHS England are driving transformation in this area.”
An NHS England spokesman said in a statement: “NHS England is supporting improvements in wheelchair services to ensure wheelchair-users and their families can lead full, independent and active lives.
“Since the first meeting, NHS England has been leading three national pieces of work which will lay the foundations for further improvement, including a new national wheelchair dataset, a new national tariff, and support and resources for commissioners.
“These are not ‘quick fixes’ and each of these pieces of work requires extensive testing and engagement to ensure maximum impact and success.”
As far back as 1986, a report by Professor Ian (later Lord) McColl called for major improvements to wheelchair services.
Five years later, responsibility for wheelchair provision was devolved from national level to local health authorities and trusts.
And in 1994, the former disabled people’s minister Alf (later Lord) Morris told MPs that thousands of disabled people saw themselves as “victims of state-sanctioned discrimination” because of the failure to provide them with powered wheelchairs.
Source Disability News Service
Other recent news items:
- Doctors’ union finally agrees to spread the word
- Disability Politics UK: call to prioritise step free access
- Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility
- Dementia care: how social enterprises are developing products and services
- Adass spring seminar: four things you need to know
- The Disability Audit: the eight coalition policies that have hit disabled people
- DWP told to publish ESA deaths report, after two-year delay
- The struggle to find work when you have Down's syndrome
- PIP Delay Crisis Over, Claims DWP
- Meet Justin Tomlinson MP- New Minister For Disabled People
- A quick guide to new care minister Alistair Burt
- How to use your disability as a strength when applying for jobs
- Devastating impact of cuts on disabled people
- NHS ‘has wasted more than a year’ on latest bid to improve wheelchair services
- Five Thousand Disabled Adults Sexually Abused In Last 2 Years Says NSPCC
- ESA Claimant Takes On Maximus And Wins
- One in five benefit-related deaths involved sanctions, admits DWP
- Manchester United tell family with disabled son to watch Stockport instead
- Joint mental health commissioning strategy
- New parliament sees number of disabled MPs plunge
- Motability under spotlight over cuts to grants… despite £190 million reserves
- Disabled people ‘should come together in new national body’
- 'It's a great honour': Selby appoints UK's first mayor with learning disabilities
- Voluntary Community Social Enterprise Review website
- Cameron downgrades minister for disabled people
- Poor UK cancer survival rates linked to lack of GP direct access to scans
- Charity highlights role of siblings in supporting adults with a disability
- Queen’s Speech fails to mention social care funding
- Queen’s speech ‘suggests the worst is yet to come'
- TV industry must improve representation of disabled people
- The bionic suit helping wheelchair users get back on their feet
- New project to tackle mental health issues
- Equality watchdog contradicts football’s Premier League over access
- Schools 'must improve support for diabetic children'
- National Theatre plans shows on issue of disability
- Rise in mental health bed occupancy
- Watchdog writes to Man Utd after stewards confiscate walking aids from fans
- Government cuts ‘could see disabled people slide back to the bad old days’
- Disabled payment delay unlawful, judge rules
- The 'dragons' who want to help disabled people start their own business
- Boy, 12, wins £120,000 in damages after swine-flu jab left him 'severely disabled' by narcolepsy
- DWP ignores watchdog’s deadline over benefit-related deaths
- Man who cannot walk or talk called for jobcentre 'back to work' interview
- UK woman can ride bike for first time with 'world's most lifelike bionic hand'
- GPs to refer more patients with low-risk cancer symptoms under new NICE guidance
- Disability campaigners clash with police inside parliament over benefit cuts
- Indefinite Award DLA Transfer To PIP Will Start From July In Certain Postcodes
- Disabled children less happy with hospital care than peers
- ILF closure: Process has caused ‘fear, stress and anxiety’, say researchers
- Disability poverty rose sharply in fourth year of coalition
- UK services failing patients with dementia
- Shadow disability minister admits backing assisted suicide bill
- Disabled people's rights threatened by government cuts, campaigners warn
- BBC Three’s ‘Defying The Label’ Season
- From 'bloodied knees' to the House of Commons as a disabled MP
- Mental health patients sent hundreds of miles for beds as out of area placements rise 23 per cent
- Systematic over-medication blights learning disability care
- The Superhumans return to Channel 4
- Accessible Information Standard Approved
- Doctors demand return of lung cancer awareness campaign
- David O’Mar, 58, Found Fit For Work Two Weeks Before His Death
- World First Bionic Eye Gives Hope To Millions
- Seven-day NHS to include child mental health services, minister confirms
- Court hears appeal on ‘unfair’ PIP 20 metre rule consultation
- New report by Business Disability Forum cites lack of skills in line managers as major barrier to retention of disabled employees
- Tanni says 10,000 signatures could finally transform wheelchair services
- BBC3 presenter and journalist crowdfunding to transform the lives of people with disabilities in Ghana
- Disabled voters take pioneering legal action over election access
- Has disability sport lost its London 2012 Paralympics momentum?
- NHS Announce New Care Guidelines For Learning Disabilities
- Fresh evidence that ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ is causing hate crime
- Sanctioned Jobseekers With Mental Health Problems Are Not ‘Vulnerable’ Says DWP
- Clubs “Neglecting Responsibility” To Disabled Fans
- Latest Figures Show Massive Rise In ESA Sanctions
- ‘Bizarre’ figures raise fears over ministers’ plans for ESA
- School nurses ‘need better mental health training’
- Number of people developing dementia 'stabilising'
- Boy, nine, fitted with first prosthetic hand that can change grip with gestures
- Iain Duncan Smith criticises employers over disability employment gap
- Disability benefit sanctions soar by 30% in a year
- Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show
- Goths at risk of depression or self-harming, research says
- Elderly 'ripped off' in mobility scooter market
- GPs are missing cancer in children - because they 'don't have enough training'
- IDS announces 'fitness for work' U-turn that was five years in the making
- People with autism and learning disabilities excel in creative thinking, study shows
- Starbucks apologises for telling woman she was not 'disabled enough' to use the toilet
- DLA Lifetime Award PIP Transition Started from 1 September in 29 New Areas
- Successful 'Fit for Work' Appeals at Highest Ever Level, Show DWP Stats
- Why is our justice system failing vulnerable people?
- UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
- Coroners 'ground breaking' verdict: Suicide was 'triggered' by 'fit for work' test
- Schoolboy calls for more disabled characters in children's books
- The quadruple amputee who needs the correct prosthetic
- Welfare to work programme failing disabled and ill jobseekers, say charities
- Disabled fans 'delighted' as Premier League finally acts on access
- Two-thirds of adult social care requests rejected by local councils
- Independent Living Fund: Government silence 'suggests something to hide'
- UK employers report rise in mental health problems: CIPD study
- UN inquiry considers alleged UK disability rights violations
- Parliament's own disability group picks first non-disabled chair in nearly 50 years
- Dementia drug 'keeps patients out of nursing homes'
- Disability benefit cuts will actually make it harder for disabled people to find work,coalition of 60 charities warns
- Problems with the care and treatment provided by the NHS and/or difficulties in accessing health services?
- Consultation on the proposed new adult social care strategy
- The Leicestershire Advice Service for Social Care is here to guide you
- Minister: MPs must help 'open doors' for disabled jobseekers
- 'Homes not hospitals': learning disability care to move to community
- Equality Act 'simply isn't strong enough' for BSL-users, peers are told
- Disability Hate Crimes Rise 41% In A Year
- Companies fear employing people with learning disabilities, survey reveals
- DWP cuts specialist disability employment advisors in jobcentres by over 60 per cent
- Watchdog 'must do more to support disabled people to fight discrimination'
- ‘We must keep banging the drum,’ says bus campaigner after five-year fight for justice
- 2,000 disabled people wrongly declared ‘fit to work’ by DWP in just three months
- Local authorities 'spend close to nothing on mental health'
- Rock band with learning disabilities release first single
- NICE seeks to improve diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy
- Premier League clubs face legal threat unless disabled access is improved
- UK’s progress on disability rights ‘patchy and tortuous’, UN told
- Peer pressure sees minister finally announce date for taxi access laws
- Stop the NHS slashing vulnerable people’s care packages in and around Leicestershire
- Minister tells industries to increase representation of disabled people
- Disabled children in England 'finding it increasingly hard to access council care'
- Wheelchair Rugby Loses Funding Appeal
- Plans that could force people into institutions could be ‘front line’ of national problem
- Young people 'fear stigma' if they ask for mental-health help
- Disability benefits process is 'inherently flawed', MPs told
- Businesses woefully ill-equipped to deal with Britain's rapidly growing mental health crisis
- Cash boost for pupils with special needs and disability
- PIP investigation: ‘Horrific’ suicide question sparks fresh assessment inquiry calls
- Disability report: Being disabled in Britain
- Stop PIP reassessments for patients with progressive diseases, campaigners say
- Patients with learning disabilities missing out on health checks
- Thousands have disability vehicles taken away
- Aspire announces GLL and LCiL as first partners to lead InstructAbility
- Easy read guide to voting by post
- Online campaign ‘could enable disabled people to affect election outcome’
- Health Committee inquiry and report: Brexit and Health and Social Care – People and Process
- Women’s Resource Centre report: the Impact of Austerity Measures on Women’s Voluntary and Community Organisations
- Disabled people ‘forced into dangerous workfare that breaches health and safety laws’
- Mental Health Foundation report: Surviving or Thriving? The State of the UK’s Mental Health
- Stirling University to launch home dementia app
- General Election 2017: What are the parties promising disabled people?
- Anger, resignation… and optimism in wake of general election result
- New disabled MPs pledge to fight for rights in parliament
- Queen’s speech: May ‘abandons’ election pledge on access
- The waiting time for a vital disability benefit has risen hugely in 6 months
- Almost 6,000 mental health patients sent out of area for care last year
- Patients increasingly forced to crowdfund their own wheelchairs as NHS provision not enough, doctors warn
- Years of austerity have left personal assistance in ‘very fragile state’
- Over Half Of Foodbank Users Are Households With A Disabled Person
- Prince Harry launches brain injury card in Suffolk
- Iain Duncan Smith says work capability assessments don't work and are 'too harsh'
- PIP investigation: 200 cases of dishonesty… and still DWP, Atos and Capita refuse to act
- Global blindness set to 'triple by 2050'
- My disability abortion bill could halt Britain’s slide towards eugenics, says Tory peer
- Jobcentre Staff Have An Alarming Lack Of Confidence Dealing With Disabled Claimants
- BBC initiative for disabled actors is a ‘wake-up call’ for producers
- Bus industry set to face fresh legal action over access to wheelchair space
- Government accused of breaching UN convention in its treatment of disabled people
- Theresa May admits UK mental health services are 'patchy'
- 2,000 children with learning disabilities left without a school
- UK faces UN examination: Government cuts caused ‘human catastrophe’
- Half of parents of disabled children forced to reduce working hours due to 'unlawful' cuts to school transport
- Summit meeting will aim to bring movement together on independent living
- Have you got the wrong impression about schizophrenia?
- Quarter of 14-year-old girls 'have signs of depression'
- Council’s review finds PIP ‘not fit for purpose’
- Epilepsy medication impact not shared
- What is universal credit - and what's the problem?
- Calls for Amazon to ban 'anorexia hoodie'
- Green man crossings 'too fast' for people with arthritis
- Mental health patients being failed as services face 'potent mix' of workforce cuts and rising demand, shows report
- Universal Credit helpline charges scrapped
- Hate crimes against disabled children rise 150 per cent in two years
- Modelling debut for boy, 11, with Down's syndrome
- Wheelchair access at Premier League grounds improved after campaigning
- Mental health sees 300,000 people leave their jobs each year
- Care Quality Commission report: Annual State of Health Care and Adult Social Care in England 2016/17
- Access to Work: ‘Scheme’s future in jeopardy through cuts and incompetence’
- Tailored treatment study aims to improve prostate cancer care
- Government admits disabled people have been receiving too little financial support from DWP
- Disabled people worry about telling employers of their condition
- Disabled woman takes DWP minister to court over PIP mental health changes
- Women and disabled people hit hardest by years of austerity, report confirms
- New year’s honours recognise campaigners, inventor and Paralympians
- Esther McVey makes disability benefits U-turn over payments
- Educational support for deaf children in England 'in complete disarray'
- Blue badge scheme could be extended to cover autism and dementia
- More than 220,000 people scored zero on disability benefits test
- MPs launch inquiry into online abuse of disabled people, following Katie Price petition
- Open letter from mental health activists probes charity’s links to DWP
- UK sick pay is found to breach international legal obligations
- Psychosis patients 'not getting best care'
- DWP promises no-one will lose out in huge review of 1.6 million PIP cases
- Majority of disability benefit claimants being left with not enough to live on, campaigners warn
- Suffragettes needed? The women still struggling to vote
- New 'miracle jab' promises to ease arthritis pain - and save the NHS billions too
- Antipsychotic drug found to relieve symptoms suffered by millions of people with Alzheimer's disease
- Government’s suicide prevention boss refuses to call for action on ESA risk stats
- Disabled peer raises ‘deep concerns’ over impact of Brexit bill on rights
- PIP assessments: 'Lack of trust' in benefits systems
- Anti-depressants: Major study finds they work
- More than a million benefits sanctions imposed on disabled people since 2010
- Thefts of disabled blue badge parking permits quadruple in England
- High Court rules Tories' disability benefit changes ‘blatantly discriminate’ against mental health patients
- Echolocation could help blind people learn to navigate like bats
- Call for government to ditch ‘discriminatory’ PIP rules for NHS care home stays
- Mystery over shock fall in disability benefits paid to older people
- Disabled passengers' champion unveiled
- Wheelchair users in UK to be given enhanced rights for bus travel
- Spring statement ‘shows disabled people will continue to bear brunt of austerity’
- House of Commons could replace benches with fold-down seats to improve access for disabled MPs
- NHS must prepare for `huge´ demand for new Alzheimer´s drugs, experts warn
- Access to work: Funding increase for disabled workers
- Doctors hope for blindness cure after restoring patients' sight
- New initiative to address ticketing barriers for deaf and disabled fans
- NICE: 'Care providers must ask people with LD what they want out of life'
- Disabled people struggle to afford food and heating, study says
- Government faces legal action over election access fund
- Disability-led ensemble to play BBC Proms
- Women across UK denied mental healthcare around childbirth, say doctors
- Robot helps Jack McLinden, 14, to be Everton mascot
- Cystic fibrosis: Company urged to lower cost of life-changing drug
- Disabled people split over personal health budget expansion plans
- Benefits applications forms to be made more accessible
- Government response to damning inquiry into disability benefit system 'falls short', say MPs
- EHRC appoints eight disabled people to advisory committee
- Sharp rise under-11s referred for mental health help
- Feel the beat: deaf fans fight for access to live music
- Health and Social Care Committee report: The Government’s Green Paper on mental health: failing a generation
- Disabled people face ‘hidden crisis’ in accessible housing
- Equality watchdog ‘considering legal action against government’ over rail access failures
- TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: ‘Critically-flawed universal credit must be scrapped’
- Call for national research as fears grow over loss of DPOs
- DWP is failing ‘vulnerable’ claimants of universal credit, says watchdog
- US approves UK-grown marijuana-based epilepsy drug
- A Better Understanding of Chronic Pain in CP Patients Is Needed, Review Study Suggests
- Student mental health support must improve, universities told
- Minister lauds £600,000 for rail access… after her department confirms £47 million in cuts
- Scientists have discovered a new type of depression: Finding will pave the way for new treatments for 30% of patients who do not respond to drugs
- Penny Mordaunt becomes first ever government minister to use British Sign Language in Parliament
- Could psychedelics transform mental health?
- Disability Confident employers promise less than one job each on average
- Patients face autism referral and assessment 'lottery'
- Government will pay arrears to thousands of benefit claimants