Thursday, 7 June 2012

What the HELL is wrong with WORCESTERSHIRE?

GUEST BLOG: S.Sumpter.

[image: My old broken power
old broken powerchair

I wrote back in March about the death of the power wheelchair that I had
been given<>
and my quest to obtain a new
It was old but it served its purpose in letting me go further from home
and use public transport without requiring another person to push my
wheelchair. Since my ability to walk is fairly limited I do need a
wheelchair when I am out of the house. There are four ways that I know of
to obtain a manual or powered wheelchair.

1. The NHS
2. Lease one from Motability using the mobility component of DLA
3. Buy one
4. Get a charity to buy one

It should be obvious that buying one is not really an option for most
people living on sickness and disability benefits. Many people who need a
high end power wheelchair do lease one from the Motability scheme however
that option is not available to those who already use their DLA to lease a
car through the scheme, or who do not receive DLA at all. In some
circumstances a charity might be willing to foot some or all of the bill
for a power wheelchair. Specialist charities for certain diseases or
impairments might do this although in practice most do not have this option
either. In my case there is a charity that helps people in the area that I
live in who might be able to pay for part of the cost of a power wheelchair
for me but since charity funds must be carefully looked after they require
me to need a wheelchair but be unable to get one from the NHS before they
will help. That leads me to the main option, to ask for a wheelchair from
the NHS.

Soon after my power wheelchair broke an occupational therapist referred me
to Worcestershire Wheelchair Services and I was told that I would get an
assessment but that I would have to wait a long time. In the meantime I
bought a manual wheelchair using my credit card. I have a bankruptcy in my
past because of my illness so that credit is at an interest rate of 34% APR.

I knew when I was referred for a wheelchair assessment that I would not
qualify for a power wheelchair because I only need a wheelchair when out of
the house but that was OK because once I had an assessment I could turn to
my local charity. As I understood then from other doctors and therapists I
should qualify for a manual wheelchair, although probably one with small
wheels that required an attendant to push it because self-propelling a
wheelchair soon hurts my arms as much as walking hurts my legs. (This is
why I purchased a self-propel chair, since I would like to be able to turn
myself around even if I mostly have someone pushing.)

Then, today, I received this letter from Wheelchair Services. (Click to

[image: Letter from wheelchair

The letter informed me that I would not receive any wheelchair from the NHS
because in Worcestershire they are

"Currently only able to supply wheelchairs to people who meet higher level
needs i.e. to those clients who have a permanent mobility problem, who are
unable to walk and who require a wheelchair within their own home."

So, because I can walk or stagger around at home, I will not receive any
kind of wheelchair to help outside where I cannot walk more than a few
metres or stand up for more than a few seconds. They won't even visit to
assess me. There are many people who need a power wheelchair but are unable
to get one from the NHS because they, like me can walk to some extent
around their own home. In a lot of these cases they would use a wheelchair
inside if only they could fit one in their home, but because they cannot
they too are denied any help from wheelchair services. I know of several
people who are currently trying to raise funds through donations to
purchase their own power wheelchair because of this.

I'm not too worried about this in my own case because I have the manual
wheelchair that I bought, and I have my wife to push it much of the time. I
am far more worried about all the other people who haven't been so
fortunate and have no chance to buy a wheelchair, no charity help, no car
and no one to offer lifts. I struggle to understand the justification for
the NHS in Worcestershire not giving a wheelchair to people who need one
but only when outside. If applied nationally, this policy would trap tens
or hundreds of thousands of people in their own homes, unable to go out to
medical appointments, to buy food or to visit family and friends. I don't
know how long this policy has been in place in Worcestershire but I hope
that it is the only area doing this.

Worcestershire Wheelchair Service informed me that their qualifying
criteria have been this way for a number of years due to low funding.
Worcestershire is not looking like a good place for a chronically sick or
disabled person to live right now; Worcestershire council are planning to
remove funding for care at home for a large number of people and send them
to live in care homes instead. This is a huge backwards step, a removal of
freedom for a lot of people and reverts to the old method of locking those
with disabilities away from society. This policy on wheelchairs will ensure
that more people are trapped at home and so require care from the local
authority, which in turn may put them into a care home.

Are we as a country really so short of money that this is the route we want
to take?

Twitter @latentexistence <>

*Thanks to Steve for that.


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