NHS England issues new guidance on partial restoration of children and young people’s WCS and AHP services
In a letter issued to health leaders in England on the 3rd of June, some community health services for children and young people are to be partially restored, including wheelchair services (WCS) and allied health professional (AHP) services.
The letter has been issued to CEOs of: NHS and Foundation Trusts, CCGs, community health providers, private and not-for-profit community providers, and community interest companies.
This latest guidance has outlined to CCGs that children and young people’s AHP services (including wheelchairs) should be partially restored, recommending that the Groups continue to carry out essential services, including carrying out a local risk assessment and prioritisation of AHP caseloads and new referrals.
NHS England’s new guidance comes following a letter first published on the 20th of March, and subsequently updated on the 2nd of April, that outlined which community health services should be prioritised during the COVID-19 pandemic as staff were redeployed to the front lines.
Part of the guidance issued in March stated that work deemed medium and lower priority relating to ‘wheelchairs, orthotics and prosthetics and equipment’ services for children and young people should be stopped.
This decision faced backlash and huge concerns, as people warned of massive waiting lists and the deterioration of people’s health conditions if they did not receive the treatment they urgently needed, including potential deaths.
However, the new guidance issued by NHS England notes that: “It is important that children, young people and families receive the care and support they need as we move into this next phase. The annex has been updated to support this.”
Recognising the importance of these vital services for children and young people, WCS and AHP services (including physiotherapy services, speech and language therapy services and occupational therapy services) are now going to be partially restored across England.
NHS England recommends to CCGs that they continue with essential services but phase back in other services while retaining the ability to surge capacity if required. It also advises that CCGs offer support virtually and send advice packs to families.
According to NHS England, CCGs should also continue home visits for children and young people with high clinical priority as well as continue to carry out a local risk assessment and prioritisation for wheelchair referrals for new or review assessments.
Additionally, the letter says that CCGs should ensure essential repairs for wheelchairs currently in use, where children and young people’s safety and ability to be cared for at home would be impacted.