Healthwatch welcomes over £1m to clear backlog in demand for wheelchairs in Calderdale and Kirklees

May 3, 2018

Kirklees and Calderdale have committed to invest over £1,086,409 by September 2018 to clear a backlog in demand for wheelchairs.

Issues with the wheelchair service, currently run by contractor Opcare were first raised in November 2016, when patient champion Healthwatch brought stories to Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), one of the NHS organisations that fund the service. The charity produced a report detailing the experiences of nearly 100 people in May 2017 that was delivered to NHS commissioners in Kirklees and Calderdale. In the last 12 months, the issue has been raised by local councillors across Kirklees and Calderdale who have expressed concern at the length of time that people are being asked to wait for support. The issue has been debated at Council Scrutiny committees in Kirklees & Calderdale, who have expressed concern at the long waiting times, and reports of poor service.

Healthwatch Calderdale senior advisor Karen Huntley said

“This is good news. We’ve been listening to stories about wheelchairs, especially from the parents of children and young people with complex needs for a long time now. We’ve seen the action plan which we believe will go a long way to addressing these concerns and reduce waiting lists significantly by September 2018. We understand that additional staff have been recruited, new processes put in place, and Opcare wheelchair services have made a commitment to improve communications”

Healthwatch Kirklees senior adviser Clare Costello said

“This has been a massive issue for Kirklees groups like PCAN (Parents of Children with Additional Needs,) and all sorts of people in our community. A wheelchair that fits properly, that is delivered on time, that is fixed when it breaks, is an essential service for many people. The NHS must make sure that we don’t fail people in this way again. We’re grateful to all of the people who have told us their stories over the last 12 months, because it is those stories that have highlighted the need for change and additional funding.”

Calderdale CCG committed an extra £250,000 in non-recurrent funding to the service from its 2017/18 budget. In 2018/19 CCG’s in Calderdale Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees have all committed an additional £278,803 each to clear backlogs.

Healthwatch Director Rory Deighton said

“At its heart, this is a story about underfunding in the NHS. Our local NHS organisations are being asked to make massive savings; our hospitals are millions of pounds in debt. Under this kind of financial pressure, key services like wheelchairs, providing critical support to many of the most vulnerable people in our community, are coming under pressure as well. Being told by government that the NHS has never been better funded is unhelpful.” 

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