Disabled patients are increasingly having to rely on crowdfunding to pay for wheelchairs, a leading doctor has warned. Cuts in services, a postcode lottery of availability and delays mean that patients are being forced to rely on the public to help raise funds online to buy suitable wheelchairs.
Medics at the British Medical Association’s annual representative meeting in Bournemouth unanimously passed a motion calling for users to have “timely access to chairs suitable for their individual conditions”.
Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, a junior doctor working in south London, said hundreds of patients were fundraising online for their wheelchairs. Standard NHS chairs can weigh around 44lb (20kg) and, for some patients, manoeuvring the devices risks causing damage, she said.
Dr Barham-Brown, who presented the motion, used crowdfunding to pay for her own wheelchair – which weighs 26.5lb (12kg) and cost around £2,000. The 29-year-old said: “I had to crowdfund my wheelchair halfway through medical school when I was told that it was going to cost around £2,000 to get this chair and the NHS were able to offer me a £140 voucher or an NHS chair which weighs up to 20 kilos and is very bad, and not remotely ergonomic.
“That was ultimately going to do me more harm than good, so my best friend set up a crowdfunding page for me and managed to raise £2,000 in 24 hours. NHS chairs are very heavy and very hard to manoeuvre easily.
“In terms of public transport, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere in an NHS chair unless there was someone with me helping me. You need to be pushed. More and more I’m seeing on social media pleas from people begging for support to buy wheelchairs, not only chairs like this – lightweight, self-propelling chairs – but electric chairs.
Full story at The Guardian, 27 June 2017