It is possible to obtain a wheelchair either funded or part funded by the NHS through what is known as the NHS Wheelchair Service.
NHS Wheelchair Services are run by local health authorities and are responsible for allocating funds to the wheelchair service and primary care trusts that in turn are responsible for providing the service to the public. This can include contracting the running of the service to a private outside company.
The way the services are organized between different local authorities varies. This includes the eligibility criteria which are used to decide what type of wheelchair to provide and also who is entitled to a funded wheelchair. Timescales between referral, assessment and supply of equipment also varies veryly.
The basic process is as follows:
Referral to your local NHS Wheelchair service
An assessment of your needs takes place
Timescales and funding options are discussed
Wheelchair and training if needed are provided
A maintenance plan is arranged
(It must be noted that not everyone is deemed to be entitled to a funded or part funded wheelchair.
You will be referred to the service by your doctor, consultant, occupational therapist or you they may run a self-referral system. Contact your local NHS to find out details on how to be seen by the Wheelchair Service and for an assessment to take place. It is not uncommon for a wait of between 3-6 months for an assessment date, this varies between local authorities.
Assessments are usually carried out at a NHS Wheelchair Service center. If transport to and from the center is a problem then ask your local social services for help with this. During the assessment which will be transported out by a qualified professional your needs will be discussed including all the situations where the wheelchair will be used.
The funding options will be discussed with you and a decision on whether the NHS will fund the cost of a wheelchair or part of the cost will take place. The time between assessment and supply of the wheelchair varies depending on the type of wheelchair and local resources. A made to measure wheelchair can take some months to make, this can take several months.
When the wheelchair is ready there is a handover either at your local NHS Wheelchair Service center or your home. During the handover you will be shown how to safely use the wheelchair and information on who is responsible for maintaining and repairing the Wheelchair.
It must be said that often the time between being reported and actually receiving your wheelchair (if you are entitled) can be many months, the wheels of buroceracy grind slowly. A lot of people simply can not wait that long only to be told they are not entitled to any funding and decide to privately purchase a wheelchair so as not to effect there quality of life.