Wheelchair services review
We, along with the other clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Kent and Medway, have been reviewing the local NHS wheelchair service.
The service provides wheelchairs for people with a long-term need for a wheelchair (six months or more). The service provides manual and powered wheelchairs to children, young people and adults, following referral by a healthcare professional such as a GP or physiotherapist and an eligibility check. The service does not provide wheelchairs for short-term use (less than six months). These are loaned by organisations such as the Red Cross.
There are approximately 24,000 active wheelchair users in Kent and Medway who are served from six wheelchair service sites across the county.
The aim of the review is to ensure that people who need an NHS wheelchair receive a high quality service, which meets their needs and those of their family carers, within the budget available.
People were asked to give their views on the current service in a survey. A total of 129 people responded to the survey across Kent and Medway. Almost two-thirds – 64 per cent – of them were generally positive about the existing wheelchair service, specifically mentioning repairs, efficient service, quick assessments and good customer care. A third, however, were negative, specifically highlighting a lack of awareness of the service.
A third of respondents experienced a delay of more than two months for assessment (32 per cent) and a quarter indicated a delay of more than two months for delivery or collection of a wheelchair (24 per cent). Of those experiencing a delay, 61 per cent were not aware of the delay or the reason for it, leading to frustration and inability and loss of independence.
The review also looked at:
- The criteria used to assess people’s need for an NHS wheelchair
- The operating model used by the service
- The current service specifications, which cover 0 to 25-year-olds and people aged 26+
- What contractual arrangements would work best for the future.
NHS West Kent CCG which led the procurement, and all the other clinical commissioning groups (NHS Canterbury and Coastal CCG, Ashford CCG, NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG, NHS Medway CCG, NHS South Kent Coast CCG, NHS Swale CCG and NHS Thanet CCG), were also keen to explore with the current provider, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT), if it would be possible to extend the current contract. We are keen to retain a joined-up approach to wheelchair services. We put in place contract extensions until 31 March 2017 to enable a full competitive tender to take place.
The review lead/project manager was hosted by NHS West Kent CCG and jointly funded by the Kent and Medway CCGs. The same arrangement has applied for the tender and procurement process.
This contract has now been awarded to Millbrook Healthcare, which is anticipated to start providing wheelchair services from April.