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A guide to NHS wheelchairs

The NHS Wheelchair Service provides various types of wheelchairs for those who require them. However, you must meet certain criteria and go through a systematic process before becoming eligible for a wheelchair.

In this article, we’ll discuss the eligibility criteria for NHS wheelchairs, how to get one, and outline the complete NHS Wheelchair Service process.

Eligibility criteria

The specific criteria to determine who is eligible for an NHS wheelchair varies according to where you live in the UK. However, it’s possible to obtain a wheelchair irrespective of whether you need one on a full-time basis or occasionally. In all cases, you need to be referred by a physician to your local wheelchair service to get one.

How you can get an NHS wheelchair

It’s important to remember that, with all NHS wheelchairs, they are loaned rather than given to you. This means that maintenance and repairs are covered by the NHS directly.

To receive a wheelchair from the NHS, you need to ask your doctor, social services, physiotherapist, or other healthcare professional to put in a referral request on your behalf. Some services only accept referral forms from specific healthcare professionals, so be sure to check the instructions at your local wheelchair provider first. This referral form ensures you receive an assessment to determine whether you’re eligible and what type of wheelchair you need.

Although the NHS is a national service, the wheelchair programme is administered locally which means there are wide variations in the requirements for a wheelchair and what equipment they’re willing to fund. For example, some localities may only offer NHS wheelchairs to those who need them 24/7 rather than occasionally.

In terms of costs, some districts may provide you with a voucher that can be used towards the cost of a different wheelchair should you be denied an NHS variety. As of 2019, a personal wheelchair budget scheme is being introduced to those eligible for an NHS powerchair or wheelchair. This gives people greater choice and control when it comes to their healthcare and support, and features the ability to receive specially adapted wheelchairs to maximise independence.

Please note that you don’t have to pay VAT on a wheelchair if you’re purchasing one for someone who is chronically ill or disabled.

The NHS wheelchair service process

The first step in receiving an NHS wheelchair is to undergo an assessment. This determines what type of wheelchair you’re entitled to, whether you need further mobility equipment, and requires information on the environment you live and work in. These assessments are administered by an occupational therapist or GP within an NHS clinic. A rehabilitation engineer is also involved in the assessment since they specialise in wheelchairs. The assessment usually takes place two to six weeks after your referral as many NHS wheelchair services have a waiting list.

There are two main types of wheelchairs that a healthcare professional will assign you. These include a manual wheelchair and an NHS powered wheelchair. They consider several factors before determining which wheelchair is best for you, such as:

  • How comfortable it is
  • Whether you need it for indoors and/or outdoors
  • How often you need to use it
  • Whether you’re able to push yourself
  • Whether you operate in a care home
  • How much it costs to maintain and repair

Once your needs have been decided upon, you will have to wait to receive a standard wheelchair. How long you wait will vary between areas and often depends on what items are already in stock or whether you need a specially made wheelchair. If you’re entitled to an NHS powered wheelchair, for which the wait is usually longer.

In some cases, the NHS Wheelchair Service may give you a voucher to help pay towards more fully-featured equipment to aid your clinical requirements. There are two voucher scheme options – the partnership voucher scheme and the independent option.

The independent option gives you a voucher to cover the costs of a wheelchair that the NHS would supply you with, as well as some extra funds to cover any repairs or maintenance requirements over a five-year period.

Alternatively, the partnership option covers the cost of a basic wheelchair whilst allowing you to choose from an extended list of NHS-approved wheelchairs. The chair remains the property of the NHS, despite the fact that you pay the difference in cost and are responsible for any repairs.

For more information on NHS wheelchairs or to receive a comprehensive insurance plan for your manual or powered wheelchair, get in touch with us today.

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