Action needed to end wheelchair postcode lottery - says Assembly committee
20 May 2010The National Assembly for Wales’s Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee is calling for the Welsh Government to end the disparity in wheelchair service provision between north and south Wales, in a report published today (May 20).
The cross-party group of AMs undertook a six-month inquiry into wheelchair services in Wales, finding that wheelchair waiting times - particularly for users with complex needs - are significantly longer in north Wales than in the south.
The report acknowledges that this inconsistency could be due to there only being two main Artificial Limb and Appliance Service (ALAS) centres to serve the whole of Wales; in Wrexham and Cardiff.
But it states that this is unacceptable for wheelchair users, and is calling on the Government to draw up a strategic plan to give direction to the service.
Other recommendations of the report include; better integration of wheelchair services with other community, NHS and social services; the pooling of existing budgets to provide equipment for users; a more performance-measured approach to monitoring services, and a better communications strategy to provide progress updates on the system.
Committee chair Darren Millar AM said: “For the many thousands of wheelchair users in Wales, having the right equipment at the right time means everything.
“People who don’t need wheelchairs take being able to leave the house, go to work and socialise with friends for granted, but wheelchair users can’t do these things if they don’t have appropriate equipment.
“During the course of the inquiry, we did hear some positive comments about services, but it’s clear that there are problems in many areas, including long waiting times, particularly in north Wales. We also heard that users with complex needs, including children, can suffer the longest waits.
“The committee hopes that the recommendations contained in this report ensure that wheelchair users in Wales get the service they deserve.
“Wheelchair users should be able to access a high quality and timely service regardless of age and no matter where they live in Wales.”