Northamptonshire is delivering on NHS targets for those needing wheelchairs, figures reveal
County CCG bucks national trend as charity raises concerns over postcode lottery on spending and services
Nearly all those in Northamptonshire needing NHS wheelchairs are getting them on time, figures show — despite lengthy delays elsewhere across England.
Charity Disability Rights UK has called on health service bosses to tackle wheelchair waiting times across the country, and said leaving someone without a wheelchair is akin to removing the use of a non-disabled person's legs.
Clinical Commissioning Groups in England are required to deliver wheelchairs to patients within 18 weeks of a referral.
NHS England data shows nearly all new patients who received wheelchairs in the NHS Northamptonshire CCG area between July and September got them within this timeframe.
But nationally, 11 percent of adults and around a third of the children who received equipment during the same period had waited longer than four months.
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at charity Disability Rights UK, described the figures as shocking and said: “A wheelchair enables mobility within and outside the home, allowing children and adults to get around independently and safely and live the lives they choose.
"Many disabled wheelchair users talk about their wheelchairs as being an extension of their bodies.
"To not have a wheelchair is akin to a non-disabled person not having their legs for a prolonged period of time."
The data shows considerable disparity in waiting times between CCG areas across England.
Just 23 out of 91 CCGs with data available delivered all prescribed equipment to new patients within 18 weeks, while at the other end of the scale, 84 percent of patients in North Lincolnshire waited longer than the target time.
Different figures show the current annual spend on wheelchair services also differs significantly, with some CCGs spending several million pounds a year, and others, tens of thousands.
The annual spend on wheelchair services nationally equates to £211 per patient and ranges from below £2 per head in Newcastle Gateshead to £800 in Thurrock.
The Northamptonshire CCG's annual spend is £583,800, the equivalent of around £65.39 for each of the 8,928 patients registered.
Disability Rights UK has called for the disparities across CCGs to be addressed urgently and for the NHS to consult with wheelchair users to establish quality standards, timescales and monitoring arrangements.
An NHS spokesman said most people received the right wheelchair for their needs within 18 weeks but those with specialist requirements may wait longer.
He said Personal Health Budgets gave people more choice and control over their wheelchair provision.