Patients increasingly forced to crowdfund their own wheelchairs as NHS provision not enough, doctors warn
Doctors have urged the NHS to improve its wheelchair provision as it emerged a growing number of patients are using crowdfunding to pay for their own wheelchairs.
A junior doctor working in south London told medicals at the British Medical Association (BMA)’s annual representative meeting in Bournemouth “hundreds” of patients are turning to online fundraising due to delays and being offered heavy wheelchairs that are unsuitable for their needs.
Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which means her joints dislocate easily, said she used crowdfunding to buy a lightweight chair that allows her to move independently and reduces the risk of damage through manoeuvring a heavy frame.
“The standard NHS chair can weigh up to around 20kg and it’s very poorly designed – it’s not remotely ergonomic,” she said. ”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.”
Delays, cuts to services and a “postcode lottery” in wheelchair availability across the country is fuelling the rise in people making public appeals to buy them – with charities also stepping in to provide wheelchairs when the NHS is unable to.
There are around one and a half million wheelchair users in the UK, two thirds of whom are regular users.
Dr Barham-Brown used crowdfunding to pay for her own 12kg wheelchair, which cost around £2,000. She said she was now able to get around more easily at work and play sports, including basketball, in her chair.
The 29 year old said she raised the money halfway through her medical training because the standard NHS chair or £140 voucher she was offered “was ultimately going to do me more harm than good”.
“Since getting the chair my painkiller usage has gone right down because I’m able to do more and I’m not constantly on my feet all day, whereas two years ago I didn’t even think I’d get through medical school,” she said.
BMA representatives unanimously passed the motion, proposed by Dr Barham-Brown, calling for users to have “timely access to chairs suitable for their individual conditions”.
“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.
“The guidelines for getting chairs now are so strict, wheelchair services across the country are being privatised and it’s just getting harder and harder to get access.
Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said while wheelchairs are vital for people’s independence, “there are substantial gaps in wheelchair provision, the suitability of chairs and delays in delivery.
“NHS funding can account for only the cost of the basic chair, which amounts to a quarter of the actual cost with adaptations,” he said, adding that charities “are relied on to fill the gap”.
“Delays in providing the appropriate wheelchair can result in a detrimental impact on the quality of life for people, and can increase the possibility of unplanned emergency admissions to hospital. Therefore, ensuring wheelchair users have timely access to suitable chairs could result in cost savings to the NHS.”
He urged the Department of Health and NHS England to make “urgent improvements at a national and a local level”.
Samantha Renke,a disabled actress, was forced to crowdfund her electric wheelchair after she was denied one on the NHS.
Earlier this year the disability campaigner, who suffers from brittle bones, turned to the JustGiving website to raise funds for her wheelchair.
She was told she was not eligible for an electric wheelchair through the NHS because she could sufficiently wheel her manual chair in her home.
Other examples of people fundraising for chairs on the GoFundMe site include a 10 year old who suffers from a rare genetic muscle disorder, autism and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a stroke patient who wants a wheelchair so he can get back to work, and an 11 year old with cerebral palsy.
The Independent has approached the Department of Health and NHS England for comment.
Holly (A42) Holly and her family were around Johnstone Strait A LOT over the summer and appeared to be very sociable with many different pods and matrilines. As always, they took to the rubbing rocks which has always been a favourite of the A42s. Surf (A66) appears to enjoy the sensation of the rubbing rocks especially. It seems baby Albion (A103) had a bit of trouble learning what to do but with some practice, her mother and siblings showed her the way.
Fife (A61) It seems that Fife has done a fair amount of moving around this summer. He met frequently with the A42s but also a lot with the I15s. More than any other pod though, it seems he spent his time with Plumper and Kaikash until Plumper unfortunately became very unwell and seems to have passed away. There were multiple commercial fishing boats around this summer which has caused the orcas quite a bit of disturbance. One of the calves in the I15 matriline even became temporarily entangled in a net until the fisherman kindly cut him/her free.
Simoon (A34) Simoon and her family appeared to be a bit preoccupied this summer as they only came ‘home’ for a total of 6 and a half days. They arrived and circuited for a day then by the evening, finally settled. The next day they spent the entire time with Holly and her family then they left and didn’t return for an entire month. When she did return, she spent a day with Scarlett and her family then ventured back to Holly. And on the last day, she began her travel back fairly early on. It seems Simoon had other obligations this summer and there are hopes she’ll appear again next year.
Pointer (A39) Pointer has been missing for an extremely long time now and it seems that he has passed away. No one can ever say for certain when it comes to wild cetaceans but it seems safe to assume after such a long duration. It is anthropomorphic to say, however there is speculation that the passing of his mother’s death is a contributing factor to his death. He disappeared for a while last year and when he returned, he simply would not leave his mother’s side and stayed with her right up until she died. Could it be that poor Pointer has grieved to death? He was just shy of 39 years old which is fairly old for a northern resident male so it may just be coincidence. Either way, it’s very sad to see only one distinctively tall dorsal fin travelling with the A30s. It is also sad to know that he will never get to know his new great niece/nephew as his niece Bend has just given birth again.
Summary: Sixteen year old Phil Lester has a unique gift. Since he was little, he can hear people’s thoughts. He learned to put up with it. Until Dan Howell came into his life.
He was doing it again.
Talking. In his mind. Why do people do that?! Why the hell am I the one who has to listen to it? I was gifted, or rather cursed with the ability to hear people’s thoughts.
With other people like my family and friends, it’s not that loud. I can only hear the thoughts of my parents mentally cursing themselves at a family barbeque or my friend Chris’s crude inner monologue.
I’d been too preoccupied with trying to hear my new form tutor over a girl, Louise was her name. She had been sitting on her own, fiddling with a bright pink pencil case. She had short blonde hair and rosy cheeks. Her thoughts were crying over the music in my ears. She was scared of making no friends and being outcasted. I felt sorry for her, I swear I did. But her thoughts were like white noise piercing my ears.
So many of them! Louise squeaked in my mind. Look at him! I had twisted around in my chair to follow her glance which had landed on the door. He’s quite cute. The frightened look on her face diminished and she adopted a sweet smile and started to dig in her bag for her purple notepad.
That’s when her thoughts stopped abruptly as she turned her attention to scribbling a love-note or something. I had rolled my eyes, turning back in my seat, discreetly corking my earphones back in.
But with him, god damn his thoughts. God damn everything about him! I’ve had to put up with this since year seven. Since he walked into my form room on the first day of high school. I’d already gotten used to my strange ability at that point, and had learned to block it out with earphones.
Good and bad news from the northern residents, confirmed by researchers:
- Eclipse (A67) of the A34s (former known as A12s) is pregnant again.
She gave birth to her first baby Sunday (A92) in 2009, but lost it in
2011. Her second offsping Tuzo (A102) was born in 2012 and is still
- Ella (I4) of the I15s was reported to be pregnant last year, but sadly her pregnancy did not result in a surviving baby
- I103, the firstborn of I65, who was trapped in a fishing net last year, is gone.