Thousands of disabled children left waiting months for crucial mobility equipment
New figures from charities have found that over 5,000 children suffering from spinal injuries and other disabilities are forced to wait months for a wheelchair, which has been described as an “alarming” NHS failure.
Four years ago, the NHS signed a wheelchair charter which promised that access and provision should be equal for people, regardless of age or area.
But the new findings from the charities show around one in five children who need a wheelchair are waiting over 18 weeks for one, with a postcode lottery in provision across the country.
In some parts of the country, less than one in three children who required the equipment received it within this time.
Furthermore, the statistics show waiting times lengthened for children requiring specialist or bespoke chairs.
Campaigners said the failings meant children were trapped in their own home, unable to go to school, and, in some cases, forced into respite care because parents could not cope.
Dave Bracher, Campaigns Manager at the Spinal Injuries Association, told the Telegraph: “These alarming statistics show a continued widespread postcode lottery that is affecting some of the most vulnerable disabled children in society, including those with spinal cord injuries.
“These delays inevitably affect a child’s rehabilitation and daily life – such as attending school, contributing to family, and being with friends and therefore has significant long-term consequences”.
Failing to meet the target of 92 percent, 82 percent of eligible children received a wheelchair within 18 weeks last year.
In March 2019, the target will rise to 100 percent.
More than 4,200 children, two fifths of all those with high needs requiring wheelchairs, had to wait more than nine weeks in 2017-2018 to receive their wheelchair once their needs had been assessed.
Children in Darlington, Rotherham, Portsmouth, South Lincolnshire, West Hampshire, Southampton, and West Suffolk were among those suffering the longest delays.
A spokeswoman for NHS Clinical Commissioners said the NHS is trying to improve its performance by working closely with providers amid the pressures and demands the Health Service faces.
An NHS England spokesman said: “The new target has been introduced to drive improvements in access to and availability of wheelchairs for children across every part of the country, however there will be cases for example where children chose bespoke wheelchairs which may take longer to arrive.”