The meeting with wheelchair services went pretty well, far better than I had expected, the O.T. had a totally different attitude, not sure if it was due to my emails or not, and the rehab engineer (who I’ve known for ages) was great, they will probably end up offering me a decent chair, maybe a Sunrise Medical Salsa, they brought a Spectra with them but the engineer suggested a Salsa may be better, not perfect but unless I go private I’m not going to get that.
They will make a lot of adaptations to make the chair fit my clinical needs, which I can’t see anyone else having the expertise to do, the things they have agreed to do are special Gel seating cushions, slightly curved backrest cushion, special foot supports (with special air padded cushioning), a modified swing away armrest to attach the joystick control to, increase the maximum recline angle of the chair and supply a special headrest with cheek support, I will have to apply to the PCT for an attendant control as WCS can’t provide it as standard.
The thing is I would love a private chair which I could get modified for a smoother ride, more torque etc. but if I do that Wheelchair Services won’t adapt it at all, not even cushions, I can understand them not being able to repair a private chair, but adaptations seem like something they should do whether the chair is NHS owned or not. The report “Get Moving – The case for effective wheelchair services” suggests private chairs should be allowed to have adaptations from WCS and the NHS South West pilot also seems to want this.
There are a few other issues with having an NHS chair, I will probably have a hard time convincing them I need 6 mph rather than the standard WCS 4 mph, I can’t make any modifications to it myself, they own it which means I must constantly meet their criteria and they can assess me or take the chair away whenever they want, there are other issues too but those are the main ones which worry me .
So my challenge now is to some how get WCS to agree to make adaptations to a voucher and charity funded chair, I’d be willing to forfeit the 75 % extra they give with the voucher scheme for repairs etc. if it’s a budget issue. This is my real sticking point, if I can’t have adaptations to a private chair done by an expert like the rehab engineer at WCS, who knows my needs well and I trust, I will have to go with a WCS provided chair.
I have emailed a few people to see if I can get WCS to adapt a private chair but am waiting on replies, as the NHS likes moving slowly and changing policies is something they usually have to be forced into kicking and screaming I will have a hard fight on my hands, but unlike personal budgets, which won’t be available in Gloucestershire for quite some time according to an official source I have talked to, this seems to be a policy issue and not a legal one so there may be a chance.
The ideal chair I have in mind is a Sunrise Medical Quickie F55 which I know some other WCS have provided but mine don’t, so obviously they can be adapted, in fact the chair is not that different from what they may offer (it’s made by the same manufacturer). I want WCS to adapt it for my clinical needs, and then have it modified by a specialised engineering company to add better tyres, for a smoother ride and to enable me to go on bumpy ground/grass safely, standard wheelchair tyres just don’t do this well, I’ve nearly tipped out of my old chair several times in parks or crossing fields and it has pretty decent, large pneumatic tyres. Add better motors for greater speed, 8 mph is the maximum legal speed in the UK so it will only be equal or less than this, the new motors will also provide more torque for steeper slopes and better control. Change batteries to give more power, higher capacity and enable faster charging (standard batteries usually take 12 hours). Finally a new control unit which will make the other stuff work and be customisable to my exact needs, all wheelchairs supplied by commercial companies are sluggish and unresponsive when supplied, probably due to excessive health and safety policies and to make sure they are safe to use with any disability or by and any age group.
I want to use this new chair for a long time which will save the NHS money, I’m not out to rip them off, in fact if they had agreed to repair and adapt my old chair, which I’ve had for 15 years, I probably wouldn’t even be asking for a new chair, although members at my multidisciplinary meeting with CHC were also quite insistent I should have a new chair.
Donations are still very much appreciated as I will have to privately pay for some if not all of my new chair, I’m currently considering getting a second hand chair and having it modified, this should bring the price down to around £3000 hopefully.