includes information of my experience of both wheelchairs and my return to
driving after my spinal injury. This is my set up and the
equipment and transport I use won't be suitable for everyone.
come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone's needs will be different,
I've tried to include as much information as possible for the English wheelchair
I use both a manual lightweight chair which was supplied on my discharge from hospital in '95 and an electrically powered indoor/outdoor wheelchair. This is supplied by my local wheelchair service who operate as part of the National Health Service (NHS). I have had this since '97. Until I got my powered chair I relied on being pushed by friends and family in my manual wheelchair.
As you are aware I live in England, the information detailed below is particularly relevant to residents of England and Wales.
Since 1996 the British Government set aside a large sum of money for the provision of electric indoor/outdoor wheelchairs to those people in the community who would benefit from having one. The details of this scheme and eligibility for it are detailed below.
In my wheelchair, aboard the 'London Eye' October 2000
Like most things introduced by Government bodies, there was much confusion and discrepancy with the way different local authorities interpreted the new guidelines. Clearly every disability is different, in my opinion EVERY tetraplegic spinal cord injured person fits the criteria for the free supply of an NHS electric indoor/outdoor wheelchair.
When I first contacted my wheelchair service about the provision of a powered chair, I was told I couldn't have one. I was put on an assessment waiting list with virtually no hope of being considered in the foreseeable future. I was incensed. Not being someone who gives in easily, I wrote to my local Member of Parliament. I outlined my case and the way I had been treated. Within 4 weeks of that letter I was invited by the head of my local authority to attend the wheelchair centre for an assessment. Within the next few months I took delivery of a new powered wheelchair. This powered chair has increased my quality of life and independence beyond belief.
I'm not saying that an MP's intervention will work for everyone but it certainly speeded things up for me. You have nothing to lose by trying.
Under the chronically sick and disabled persons act 1970, local authorities have a statutory responsibility to arrange for provision of equipment and adaptations to the home that will help people to maintain their independence and secure their greater safety, comfort and convenience. If you live in a residential home, you may also get help. Any equipment and adaptations will be provided on the basis of a professional assessment of your needs.
Suitably adapted or specialised equipment is a key factor in enabling a person to live as independently as possible. The range of items is large - so don't buy anything without getting expert advice and if possible, using the equipment on a trial basis to see if it really works for you. If your occupational therapist recommends an item of equipment, ask if there is a centre where you can see the equipment. Equipment provided by local authorities or by the NHS is generally considered to be long term loan.
Items for daily living as well as mobility also include items to make it easier to use the toilet, to wash, dress, use cooking facilities, etc: for example, hand rails next to the bath and toilet, raised toilet seats, widened doorways, a bathroom on ground floor etc.
Social Services Departments may be the best people to turn to initially for advice and help. However, all personal and health care professionals may be able to give help and advice - eg a social worker, district nurse, health visitor, or your GP. More detailed information may also be available from your local DIAL, Disability Information Service or Wheelchair Users Group.
Wheelchairs-Free long term use from the NHS
According to the National Health Service Act 1997, anyone who has a permanent mobility problem is entitled to a FREE, long term loan of a wheelchair from the NHS. Under the NHS, wheelchairs (including powered wheelchairs) and hand and pedal propelled tricycles are supplied and maintained free of charge to a disabled person whose need for such a chair is permanent.
Both occupant and attendant controlled electrically propelled wheelchairs are supplied.
Provision is made for:-
For full time or occasional use.
POWERED INDOOR CHAIRS:
For people who are unable to propel themselves indoors in a non-powered chair.
POWERED OUTDOOR CHAIRS (Attendant Controlled):
For people who are unable to propel themselves indoors in a non-powered chair and rely on an attendant who is unable to propel them outdoors without a powered chair.
POWERED INDOOR/OUTDOOR WHEELCHAIRS
Are provided for severely disabled people by the NHS as from 1st April 1996.
Eligibility criteria for powered indoor/outdoor wheelchairs
Each Health Authority will assess local needs and determine local eligibility for the supply of powered indoor/outdoor wheelchairs. This should be within the broad national framework that the severely disabled person is:-
- unable to propel a manual wheelchair outdoors.
- able to benefit from the chair through increased mobility leading to improved quality of life.
- able to handle the chair safely.
THE TWO MAIN POINTS TO BEAR IN MIND WHEN APPLYING FOR AN INDOOR/OUTDOOR POWERED CHAIR ARE:
To qualify you must be unable to walk or walk effectively and unable to push a manual wheelchair independently indoors or outdoors.
State clearly how one of these chairs will enable you to become more independent and how it would improve your quality of life.
To obtain a NHS Wheelchair you should contact your GP or the local District or Regional Wheelchair Service.
This scheme was introduced to give wheelchair users more choice and financial aid from the NHS if they choose to buy a wheelchair from the private sector.
The aim of the scheme is to give disabled people more choice of wheelchair within the NHS by offering them three options:
1. To accept the wheelchair prescribed, as at present
2. To contribute to the cost of a more expensive wheelchair of their choice. They will own the wheelchair and responsible for its maintenance and repair. This will be called the independent option.
3. To contribute to the cost of a more expensive wheelchair of their own choice from a range selected by the local wheelchair service. The NHS will own the wheelchair and be responsible for its maintenance and repair. This will be called the partnership option
The key principles of the scheme are:
a. Universal eligibility- anyone assessed as meeting the local eligibility criteria for a wheelchair may apply.
b. Assessment and review of needs by the wheelchair service and prescription of a suitable wheelchair in consultation with the user (and where appropriate, their carer or representative).
c. Supply of the wheelchair through agreed suppliers.
d. Continued access to NHS provision of special seating/pressure-relieving cushions if needed.
"YOUR LOCAL WHEELCHAIR ASSESSMENT CENTRE WILL BE ABLE TO PROVIDE YOU WITH FURTHER DETAILS. WHEELCHAIR SERVICES AND THE EQUIPMENT THEY SUPPLY WILL VARY FROM ONE HEALTH AUTHORITY TO ANOTHER, AS EACH AUTHORITY MANAGES ITS FINANCES AND RESOURCES INDEPENDENTLY"