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Guide to social care services

NHS wheelchair services

NHS wheelchair services offer assessments to determine what type of wheelchair or mobility equipment you many be entitled to on the NHS.

What is the NHS wheelchair service?

In most cases, you'll be referred to the service by a hospital, doctor, consultant or occupational therapist. See the directory of wheelchair services for a full list of services.

In general, wheelchair services are available to people of all ages who have a long-term need for mobility help. However, the specific criteria for whether you're eligible are decided locally and will vary depending on where you live. 

Before you can be offered a wheelchair, you’ll have to undergo an assessment. This will determine if you're eligible and, if so, what type of mobility equipment is most appropriate. The assessment is normally carried out at NHS wheelchair services centres or clinics.

The people who assess you will all be health professionals, such as GPs, occupational therapists or physiotherapists, and should include a "rehabilitation engineer" (someone who specialises in wheelchairs and seating). There is no one-size-fits-all policy, which means you will be assessed according to your individual needs. The assessment should take into account your physical and social needs, as well as the environment in which you live and work.

Many wheelchair services have a waiting list for assessment appointments, so you may have to wait several weeks after being referred to have an assessment.

tip

Take a friend, carer or your own therapist with you when you have your assessment. They can help you make the right choice. Also, if the service comes to visit you at home or work, you won’t be able to see and try the full range of chairs available.

If you're eligible, you’ll be provided with a wheelchair, buggy, accessories or seating from the NHS-approved range.

What is the NHS voucher scheme?

A wheelchair voucher scheme has been available since 1996. It gives you greater choice in the wheelchair you receive. You're given a voucher to the value of the chair you would have been offered after your assessment (which is determined locally in each individual case). You can then put the voucher towards the cost of a chair that you buy privately or in partnership with the NHS.

If you agree to maintenance of the chair by the NHS, you will have to return the chair to the NHS when you no longer need it. However, you can opt for private maintenance, which will allow you to keep the chair permanently.

Not all NHS wheelchair services offer the voucher scheme. Services decide locally whether to have a scheme and how that scheme is applied.

You cannot exchange the voucher for cash. The voucher is non-taxable so it does not affect any disability benefits you receive.

tipAlso read the section about research before buying a wheelchair.

What if my needs change?

Chairs can be adapted if necessary to meet your specific needs. This is particularly important for children, as their equipment must adjust to their growth and changing needs. If you feel that your wheelchair doesn’t fit your current needs any more, contact your wheelchair service and they will reassess you.

Other ways to get a wheelchair

Local authorities

Local authorities provide wheelchairs as part of their duty to help disabled children access education. They're responsible for carrying out home adaptations if you need them to use a wheelchair at home. Your local authority is also responsible for issuing static seating and night time posture support if required. Contact your local authority for more information.

The Motability Scheme

The Motability Scheme enables disabled people to lease a car, powered wheelchair or scooter using their higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or their War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement. Visit the Motability website for more information.

Whizz-Kidz

Whizz-Kidz is a charity that provides disabled children and young people with mobility equipment. It provides services in communities across the UK and has mobility centres in a number of areas through partnerships with the NHS. Whizz-Kidz also organises wheelchair skills training. For more information, see the Whizz-Kidz webiste.

Access to Work scheme

The Access to Work scheme can help you if your health or disability affects the way you do your job. It gives you and your employer advice about and support with extra costs that may arise because of your needs. Find out more about the Access to Work scheme, which is run by JobCentre Plus.

Short-term loan wheelchairs

If you need a wheelchair for a short period, such as after an accident or when you've been discharged from hospital, you may be able to apply for a short-term loan wheelchair with your local wheelchair service. For more detailed information, contact your local service.

The wheelchair service will not provide a wheelchair if it is only required for day trips or outings.

tip

Find wheelchair hire services in the London area (PDF, 182KB)

Do your research before buying your own chair

Do some research before you choose a wheelchair. Ensure the chair suits your individual needs, can be maintained and is a reasonable price. The following checklist can help you decide:

  • Check the location of your supplier (is it near your home?).
  • Find out what other people think about a particular wheelchair.
  • Try as many makes and types of wheelchairs as possible (you may have to visit several suppliers to see different ranges).
  • Ask if you can try the chair at home. This will allow you to check whether the size of the chair is suitable for your home. Also try the chair outside on a regular route, check it goes in your car boot and that it works anywhere else you might use it.
  • Shop around for a good price.
  • Find out how long the delivery time is.
  • Ask if it will it be delivered ready for use
  • Check if it is guaranteed and for how long.
  • Check if insurance is available and if it requires you to maintain the wheelchair according to the manufacturer's guidance.
  • Ask if you can deal with the manufacturer if there is a problem.
  • Ask if the retailer keeps spare parts in stock or if they need to order them. If so, how long would you have to wait?
  • Check if the retailer does repairs or if this is provided by a third party.
  • Ask if they do home visits or take the chair away for repair.
  • Check if they will give you a replacement chair during repairs and if this is free.
  • Also, will the chair be collected and delivered for repairs.

The following organisations offer additional advice:

Also read the DLF fact sheets on:

Comments

Page last reviewed: 25/04/2012

Next review due: 25/04/2014

Looking beyond the standard wheelchair

Nikki and Robby both lead active lives and their wheelchairs need to accommodate that. This video will show you what types of wheelchairs are available if you do not wish to take on a standard NHS wheelchair. Note: the NHS may be able to provide a wheelchair free of charge. The type of wheelchairs available depends on your needs and you'll have to go through an assessment.

Media last reviewed: 15/05/2013

Next review due: 15/05/2015

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