Right Chair, Right Time, Right Now

If you are a wheelchair user, unlike the song when you only have three wheels on your wagon, you don’t keep rolling along – even if you are be chased by Cherokees! If you require a new wheelchair chair or an urgent repair on your old chair and rely on your local NHS wheelchair service to provide you with a chair or undertake any repairs, then you may be in the lap of the Gods regards how long you will be waiting depending on where you live.

If you live in Hampshire, like one of our members does, you could be waiting six months! Our member who has a C4/5 spinal cord injury, called out an engineer in mid-March after experiencing several problems with his wheelchair and was told the chair was not fit for purpose. The arm rests were not the right kind to assist him to overcome troubles with his balance and therefore he struggled to use a chin control to allow him to get about, the springs needed to be changed and more importantly his jay cushion needed replacing as it was old and leaking gel, making him extremely vulnerable to pressure sores.

Coming into October he is still waiting to get these things resolved, despite countless calls and correspondence to all and sundry including his MP! The system it seems is more paralysed than him.

We have also received other such testimonies about poor wheelchair provision in South Hampshire and other areas of the country. In a recent report commissioned by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Spinal Cord Injury on the state of community services for spinal cord injured people, not surprisingly titled ‘A paralysed system’, the failure of NHS Wheelchair services in some parts of the country was directly linked to one of the causes of bed-blocking in our Spinal Cord Injuries Centres.

There are some excellent examples of efficient, user friendly, well-resourced services in various areas but with 151 separate wheelchair services in the UK a Spinal Cord Injuries Centre could be dealing with 20 or more in their catchment area to ensure each patient has the right chair in place on discharge.

To even start tackling this country wide problem of post code lotteries would be an impossible task for any one charity like SIA, so a National Wheelchair Alliance has been set up to address the issue of failing wheelchair services.

The Alliance is a group committed to improving wheelchair services across England. Representing wheelchair users and their organisations (including SIA), their families, carers and other stake holders, the Alliance is working to strengthen connections between key partners in order to bring about positive, lasting change and shape NHS wheelchair services into a system that works better for its users.

A dual approach has been adopted to improve wheelchair service provision as quickly as possible which are: The Right Chair, Right Time, Right Now campaign, and the development of a Wheelchair Charter.

The Right Chair, Right Time, Right Now campaign aims to raise awareness of issues in wheelchair services and highlight great practice, targeting those with the power to deliver change to make the rapid improvements needed to stop services from failing or continuing to fail.

The campaign also calls upon service users to help demand change by highlighting areas of improvement or by sharing great experiences. You can get involved with the online conversation by tweeting using @rightwheelchair and #MyWheelchair or emailing [email protected]

The Wheelchair Charter outlines ten principles for how wheelchair services should be commissioned and delivered to ensure that people get the Right Chair at the Right Time.

The Alliance is asking service users, manufacturers, providers, voluntary sector organisations, commissioners, clinicians and members of the public to pledge support for the charter principles and the need for those in power to commit to delivering against them.

By pledging support the Alliance believes that together we will be able to start the changes needed, commit to better service delivery and an improved quality of life for every wheelchair user.

To pledge your support go to http://www.rightwheelchair.org.uk


Mick Hutchins, SIA Public Affairs Officer.