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NHS Wheelchairs: Myths and Facts

More than a million people in the UK use a wheelchair and two-thirds of those people are regular wheelchair users. When you need a wheelchair, you have a few different options – you can purchase one outright, rent a wheelchair, or use NHS equipment. The right option for you or your loved one is likely to depend on your individual circumstances. Being well-informed about the different options is key to choosing the wheelchair provision that’s right for you.

Many users opt for an NHS wheelchair, however, there often seems to be some confusion around the process and what to expect. To clear up the misunderstandings, we’ve put together this guide to NHS wheelchairs: myths and facts.

Your doctor will inform you if you need a wheelchair or not – MYTH

Sometimes you might not know where to begin with getting a wheelchair from the NHS or you might be unsure about how long the process is going to take. The first step is to ask your GP, physiotherapist, or hospital staff for a referral to your local wheelchair service. The specialist service can assess your needs and decide what type of wheelchair you need. You might also be allocated a personal wheelchair budget. The entire process can take several weeks or often months depending on the type of wheelchair you need.

The NHS provides vouchers to purchase wheelchairs – MYTH

Another myth is that the NHS provides vouchers so you can buy a wheelchair privately. A lot of this confusion comes about because this used to be the case. However, the voucher scheme has now been replaced by personal wheelchair budgets, a new approach designed to deliver a more person-centric service. The amount budgeted depends on an assessment of the individual’s needs and is intended to give users greater choice and better-integrated care.

The NHS must carry out all repairs & modifications to my wheelchair – TRUE

Some people believe that they can carry out repairs and modifications to their NHS wheelchair as they see fit. However, because the wheelchair remains NHS property whilst you’re using it, you’re not entitled to do this. If your wheelchair needs repairs, you can use the NHS’s repair and maintenance service. Personal wheelchair budgets cover the cost of maintenance work. You’re also responsible for keeping your wheelchair in good condition as far as possible. This includes keeping it clean and storing it appropriately.

I will own my wheelchair once it’s given to me – MYTH        

One common misconception is that if the NHS gives you a wheelchair, it becomes your property, and you can do what you want with it. In fact, once you’re provided with a wheelchair, it remains NHS property and can only be used by you. You need to take care to address repair and maintenance problems and you must also return the wheelchair to the NHS if you no longer need it. If you want a wheelchair that you own outright, it might be more advisable to buy your own.

You cannot have an NHS wheelchair for occasional use – TRUE

There’s often some confusion around how long you can have an NHS wheelchair for. The truth is that the NHS has some criteria for how frequently you need to use the wheelchair. It expects you to need it at least four times a week for a minimum of six months. If you need a wheelchair for less time than this, you might find it helpful to approach the Red Cross. However, you might be able to borrow an NHS wheelchair for a short time in certain circumstances, for example, immediately after an operation.

The NHS will insure my wheelchair – MYTH

A common belief that causes confusion is that NHS wheelchairs come with insurance. However, it’s actually the user’s responsibility to purchase third party insurance for their wheelchair to protect against theft and damage. It’s also recommended to purchase personal liability and breakdown cover for electric wheelchairs. You also need to include your wheelchair in your travel insurance policy should you travel abroad with it.

Knowing some of the facts about NHS wheelchair provision can help the whole process seem much clearer. When you’re deciding what is right for you, make sure to ask your local wheelchair service any questions you have about the NHS provision. Considering all of your options and knowing the facts can help you to make an informed decision about your wheelchair.

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