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Research reveals wheelchair users' experiences in sourcing

A recent report commissioned by spinal cord injury charity Back Up has released concerning findings relating to the experiences of those getting their first wheelchair.

Woman playing wheelchair basketball

The survey of 540 people, who have a spinal cord injury or a physical impairment, identified as full-time or part-time wheelchair users, revealed unpleasant experiences when getting their first wheelchairs, how they choose it, pay for it and how they use it.

The charity stated:

"What should be a seamless and painless experience – since it often follows a devastating injury – is in fact rarely straightforward, prohibitively expensive, often disproportionately time consuming and the outcome is frequently unsuitable.”

The report found that NHS wheelchair services usually provide people’s first wheelchairs. However, it found that 24% of respondents said they bought a second wheelchair because their first one was uncomfortable.

The report also highlighted the need to provide wheelchairs that adjust to changing needs in the future, with 50% of those surveyed explaining they bought a second wheelchair because of changing personal needs.

Nearly half (48%) told the survey that it took 12 months to get a wheelchair that they were happy with. Whilst 7% say they have never been happy with their wheelchair, with one respondent commenting "[the wheelchair was] completely [the] wrong shape and size for [my] body and [I] constantly fell out of it.”

The report comes as the NHS continues to look into changing the current wheelchair provision structure and moving to Personal Wheelchair Budgets as part of an overall Personal Health Budget scheme.

As well as examining where people went for a wheelchair, the report also looked into who they went to for advice and information.

According to the report, 72% of respondents said they trusted the opinions of other wheelchair users when picking a new chair, with other trusted sources including physiotherapists and occupational therapist.

Interestingly, wheelchair services ranked fifth for the most trusted source of expertise, followed by sales representatives.

In regards to funding, 39% of respondents paid for their wheelchair themselves, some people using a mixture of funding streams, suggesting that the voucher was, in general, not enough to cover the cost of a wheelchair that allows someone to lead a full and active life.

To see the full report, visit the Back Up Trust website.