More than a dozen disabled people waiting too long for NHS wheelchairs in Wakefield
More than a dozen disabled people in Wakefield waited longer than the NHS target time for a wheelchair over the summer, figures show.
Charity Disability Rights UK has called on the NHS to tackle wheelchair waiting times across the country, and said leaving someone without one is akin to 'removing the use of a non-disabled person's legs'.
Clinical Commissioning Groups in England are required to deliver wheelchairs to patients within 18 weeks of a referral.
But NHS England data shows 16 new patients who received wheelchairs in the NHS Wakefield CCG area between July and September had waited longer than this.
That equated to 7% of the 230 patients given new equipment during the period
Of those left waiting longer than four months for a wheelchair, five were children and 11 adults.
And two of these patients were described as having high needs.
Nationally, almost 3,000 new patients (13%) were subject to lengthy wheelchair waits between July and September – and children were more likely to wait longer, with a third of disabled youngsters waiting over 18 weeks.
It is far more common for those with high needs to face delays than those with low needs – just 6% of people with less urgent needs had waited longer than four months, compared to 22% of those with high needs.
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at charity Disability Rights UK, described the figures as shocking and said: “A wheelchair enables mobility within and outside the home, allowing children and adults to get around independently and safely and live the lives they choose.
"Many disabled wheelchair users talk about their wheelchairs as being an extension of their bodies.
"To not have a wheelchair is akin to a non-disabled person not having their legs for a prolonged period of time."
The data shows considerable disparity in waiting times between CCG areas across England.
Just 23 out of 91 CCGs with data available delivered all prescribed equipment to new patients within 18 weeks, while at the other end of the scale, 78% of patients in North East Lincolnshire waited longer than the target time between July and September – the highest rate of CCGs with at least 100 new patients.
Different figures show the current annual spend on wheelchair services also differs significantly, with some CCGs spending several million pounds a year, and others, tens of thousands.
The annual spend on wheelchair services nationally equates to £211 per patient and ranges from below £2 per head in Newcastle Gateshead to £800 in Thurrock.
The Wakefield CCG's annual spend is £1.4 million, the equivalent of around £260 for each of the 5,218 patients registered.
Disability Rights UK has called for the disparities across CCGs to be addressed urgently and for the NHS to consult with wheelchair users to establish quality standards, timescales and monitoring arrangements.
An NHS spokesman said most people received the right wheelchair for their needs within 18 weeks but those with specialist requirements may wait longer.
He said Personal Health Budgets gave people more choice and control over their wheelchair provision.