Disabled people face four-month wait for NHS wheelchairs in St Helens

NHS figures show that six people waited longer than the 18-week window in the NHS St Helens CCG area between April and June.
NHS figures show that six people waited longer than the 18-week window in the NHS St Helens CCG area between April and June.

Disabled people in St Helens are being forced to wait more than four months for a wheelchair from the NHS, figures reveal.


Charities have warned that substantial gaps in provision across England are leaving many disabled people without the wheelchairs they need, affecting their independence and even leaving them in pain or discomfort.

Clinical Commissioning Groups in England are required to deliver wheelchairs to patients within 18 weeks of a referral, with NHS guidance stressing the "paramount importance" of the timescale from referral to delivery.

But NHS figures show that six people waited longer than the 18-week window in the NHS St Helens CCG area between April and June.

In total, 62 had a wheelchair or other equipment prescribed and delivered to them in that time, meaning the CCG had a success rate of 90%.

Of the 184 CCGs across England that submitted figures, just 10 had a 100% hit rate for delivering within the target window, with more than 5,300 patients waiting longer than 18 weeks.

Rates varied significantly across the country, with the target being missed in as many as 71% of cases in Surrey Heath, the worst-performing area.

Rob Burley, from charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, said substantial gaps in services across the country were leaving disabled people without the basic equipment they need.

He said: "Wheelchairs are not a luxury, and having access to suitable equipment is vital.

"Too often, we hear stories from people who cannot leave their homes or are forced to fund expensive wheelchairs themselves.

"We must see an improvement in services, both nationally and locally.”

Patients with a greater need face longer waits in St Helens.

During the same three-month period, 26 adult patients were assessed as having high needs after being referred to wheelchair services, meaning they were fully dependent on a chair for all their mobility needs.

But 54% of them had to wait longer than eight weeks to be assessed, compared to 17% for those with a low or medium need.

Warren Kirwan, head of communications at disability charity Scope, said: "Having the right wheelchair can be life-changing for disabled people, but many face an unfair postcode lottery to get one which meets their needs.

"Too many disabled people only get the most basic of chairs without the necessary adaptations, which can affect their independence and leave them in pain or discomfort.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: "While around 85% of children and adults are getting a wheelchair within the 18 week target, some people may have complex conditions and may wait longer for specialist equipment.”