A private firm has been awarded a £4.5 million contract to assess and provide people with wheelchairs in Yorkshire amid concerns over long waiting lists.
Around 8,000 people in Calderdale and Kirklees will benefit under the deal which sees national firm Opcare Ltd take over services from the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS trust.
The move by GP leaders follows concerns over services for the assessment, ordering, repair and adaptation of wheelchairs which were described as “overstretched and overspent”.
The scale of waiting lists for people needing wheelchairs was only fully exposed during the procurement process for the contract, which lasts three years. It is estimated the backlog will cost more than £360,000 to clear.
Carol McKenna, chief officer of NHS Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We held a number of discussion events with service users so they could tell us what they wanted from the service within the available budget.
“The messages they gave us were very clear and we were able to build a new service specification for a ‘one-stop shop’ service which we believe will bring huge improvements for people with mobility needs and their carers.
“Putting patients at the heart of service planning and delivery is exactly what we promised we would do when we were established and this is the first major contract that has been designed by patients for patients.”
NHS officials said people would have shorter waiting times below a maximum of 18 weeks following referral for a wheelchair. Staff would also visit patients at home, work or school, making services more convenient.