In 2012, Aspire discovered that eligibility criteria for new patients requesting powered wheelchairs in Newham had changed. Residents were expected to use the higher rate mobility component of their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to access the Motability Scheme to lease their own powered wheelchair, even when they had been medically assessed as needing one. If the person did not use their higher rate mobility component in this way, the NHS Wheelchair Service would not provide a powered wheelchair.
The Motability Scheme exists to help disabled people with leasing or buying a car, powered wheelchair or scooter and is used by many people with spinal cord injuries. But where an individual has been medically assessed as needing a powered wheelchair, the NHS has a duty of provision through locally managed Wheelchair Services.
The choice of purchasing or leasing a Motability car was effectively being taken away from people living in Newham, denying them the independence that comes with having a suitable vehicle. Since a powered wheelchair is essential for some people, they would have had no choice but to use the Motability Scheme to access one with the NHS moving away from its responsibility.
We were appalled by the situation and wrote to the Chief Executive of the East London NHS Foundation Trust and contacted the local MP, Rt Hon Stephen Timms, who also applied pressure on our behalf. We are delighted to have now received a response which confirms that arrangements in Newham will be reversed and those in need of a powered wheelchair will again be able to access them through the NHS.
Aspire’s Chief Executive, Brian Carlin said, “We welcome the change of mind from the East London NHS Foundation Trust. This will ensure that disabled people in Newham with high mobility needs will not be subject to the hardship that the powered wheelchair provision policy would have brought about.”