Last night I wrote with nervous excitement about my appointment with NHS Wheelchair Services this morning. We got off to a wobbly start because the taxi I’d booked was 45 minutes late and the longer we waited the tenser I got. In the end I was half an hour late, but from the moment I arrived I relaxed.
The rehabilitation centre where Wheelchair Services is based is calm, and the receptionist put me at ease straightaway. Very soon I was being seen by two amazing clinicians – an occupational therapist and a wheelchair technician. Working together they listened to me attentively and evaluated my requirements.
We talked through what was and what wasn’t working with my current chair. I explained how much more independent I was using this chair rather than the one the NHS had previously supplied. They agreed that neither chair fitted me properly any longer and that I’d benefit from a new one.
In previous assessments, concerns about my safety and ability to push myself had limited the chairs that were considered as options for me. Today I was assessed as an active user, which meant they agreed that I need a high performance wheelchair. They told me that they could provide a chair almost identical to the one I use at the moment but which would fit me better and would have a stronger, lightweight back.
I was measured up and together we carefully went through the prescription form. I was keen to have a type of lightweight wheel not available on the NHS and the technician explained that the NHS has a voucher scheme, which means I can make a financial contribution to upgrade certain features of the chair.
The voucher scheme is due to be replaced by personal health budgets for wheelchairs but both are designed to allow wheelchair users more control over the type of equipment they receive. I’ve chosen a partnership option that will mean that the NHS will maintain and repair my chair as needed.
I’m very much hoping my new chair will help relieve some of the chronic pain I’ve been experiencing over the last year. I can’t begin to describe how excited and relieved I am that this process is under way. The right wheelchair makes a huge difference to my independence, health and wellbeing and I’m really looking forward to its arrival.
The care and expertise I benefited from today is echoed across the whole range of specialisms I’ve encountered throughout the NHS. We’re incredibly lucky to live in a country that has a joined-up public health service that’s free at the point of need.
But over the last few years our NHS has been under intense political and financial pressure, with the amazing work it does seriously under-valued by those in power. Many of its services have been chipped away at and sold off to the private sector.
I believe the forthcoming general election offers an opportunity to save the NHS and to ensure that it’s here for generations to come.
Please scrutinise each of the party’s manifestos on heath and use your vote to support this vital service and enable it to continue to save and transform lives.