Exclusive: Health chiefs drop wheelchair service to save £60,000

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HEALTH chiefs in North Yorkshire have axed a service providing wheelchairs to vulnerable people as part of NHS cuts.

Frail patients who can walk short distances but need wheelchairs outdoors will no longer get them, saving the NHS £60,000 a year.

The decision by officials including GPs and other clinicians comes as the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) struggles make £23m in savings.

Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health overview committee, said he feared it could prove a “false economy” at a time more people were being treated at home.

“What may bring short-term savings may lead to longer-term costs,” he said.

A spokesman for the disability charity Scope said: “Disabled people and their families are currently being hit from all sides by local budget cuts, changes to benefits and increasing living costs so this decision by NHS North Yorkshire and York will no doubt hit many families hard.

“We’d encourage all public bodies to work together with their disabled customers to understand exactly the type of support and equipment people need to be able to get out and about and how any proposed changes will affect their lives.”

PCT interim nursing director Julie Bolus said the wheelchair service been over budget for three years, which was not sustainable. A review had shown it had to focus on those most in need.

“While we regret any decision to reduce the provision of wheelchairs to patients, we feel this measure will allow us to provide a stronger service for those who need it most and help us to meet current financial challenges,” she added.

Users who have already been referred to the service, which has a long waiting list, will not be affected.