Disabled children’s year-long wait for wheelchair

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Disabled children and their families sometimes wait for up to a year for aids such as wheelchairs, a social care watchdog review has found.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found there were considerable variations in services provided in England with the national average wait for powered wheelchairs at three months.

There were also delays in other services such as speech and language therapy (SALT) and physiotherapy, the commission said.

The national report and 151 local area reports also looked at the quality of support for children and young people including individual health action plans, whether PCTs involve families and children in the delivery of their care and whether families had access to short breaks.

Families felt access to and involvement in services was a challenge and that they waited too long for both services and initial diagnosis, the review discovered.

But there appeared to be significant disparity between the negative experiences of disabled children and their families and the data supplied by primary care trusts, which showed high levels of access and care.

About 50 per cent of PCTs reported specialist services such as physiotherapy, speech and language and occupational therapy were always or almost always coordinated with other services and 62 per cent said they involved disabled children and their families in the training and evaluation of people delivering their care package.

Other survey data showed the national average wait for a referral for community physiotherapy was seven weeks, with some children waiting up to six months and the average wait for a referral to a community occupational therapist was 15 weeks with the wait ranging up to two years.

CQC head of operational improvement, Sue McMillan, said: “This review gives disabled children and their families the tools they need to hold their local commissioners to account.

“We were disappointed a proportion of PCTs were unable to provide the data we asked for and we’re calling on them to improve the information they hold.

“It’s vital that commissioners know how many disabled children live in their areas and what the referral patterns and numbers are to the local services.

“If commissioners don’t have information about the children and services they’re responsible for, how do they know they are meeting the needs of their communities?”