The introduction of personal wheelchair budgets is a long-awaited development in the care sector, impacting many individuals across the country. Designed to replace the current wheelchair voucher system, it will offer better choice and support for those with limited mobility.
How does the new system differ from the existing one?
“There’s been a shift in discourse that most people will now recognise, from ‘what is the matter with you?’ to ‘what matters to you?” (Kate Buffery, Senior Programme Manager from NHS England)
According to the Senior Programme Manager for NHS England, the introduction of personal wheelchair budgets is part of a larger effort from the NHS. It aims to think more about how the support offered will impact the individual’s general welfare.
In relation to the wheelchairs, they go on to state that “this means recognising the impact that the right wheelchair has on people’s lives, and how it is vital to people’s independence.”
A greater choice in wheelchairs should help each person find the one which best suits their requirements. This can benefit the person far past the initial purchase, improving confidence, mobility and comfort.
The new scheme should also provide solutions to issues found within the voucher system. These include:
- Offering a wider choice of wheelchairs and places to buy them
The voucher scheme was limited. Although it offered support for buying wheelchairs, some people did struggle to find the right equipment in the right location. This new system aims to change this by giving the individual the ability to choose the chair they want, where they want.
- The individual will have greater control over their care
The new system is part of the wider introduction of personal health budgets. Although people won’t benefit from additional funds, they will have greater choice over how they spend the money. This can allow the care they receive to be best tailored to them.
- Continuous advice and guidance
Purchasing a wheelchair is just the first step of the care process, after all it still will have to be maintained and possibly repaired. According to NHS England, the lack of support surrounding this has been highlighted with the voucher scheme and will be a big area for change. This will be tackled by offering a comprehensive care plan.
Personal Budgets: Potential Problems with Purchasing a Wheelchair
Of course, there are potential downfalls of the new system. For example, the long waiting times for receiving the wheelchairs isn’t likely to get better- in fact it might even get worse.
The leading cause of delays in the voucher scheme is lack of money, something that won’t be addressed with the introduction of personal wheelchair budgets. It also means that fewer wheelchairs will be reissued back into the system after use, increasing costs for the NHS and potentially slowing the system further.
Another consideration is how the changes could affect the individual’s finances. The previous system allowed the NHS and other providers to buy wheelchairs in bulk, meaning lower prices. So, although there will be more options, choosing anything outside of what was offered in the old scheme is likely to come at worse value for money.
Purchasing a wheelchair outside of the NHS and its chosen providers means there’s also a greater chance that the individual could be misguided in their choice. If the incorrect equipment is chosen, it could lead to serious medical conditions like pressure ulcers. This is why it’s essential that you choose an experienced supplier who can offer advice tailored to you.