Wheelchair users have helped shape a new service which will start on the Isle of Wight next year.
The new service, which will cover the Island, Southampton and West Hampshire, will start in April 2021.
It will be provided by the existing operator - Millbrook Healthcare Limited - and include several improvements suggested by wheelchair users, their carers and patient groups who wanted a service which was 'patient centred, joined up and Island based.'
The innovations for the Isle of Wight service include:
- improving patient experience by reducing waiting times and repeat assessments by using key members of the community workforce trained as trusted assessors for wheelchairs
- giving more choice and control for wheelchair users offering individual budgets for equipment under the Personal Wheelchair Budgets scheme
- accepting referrals for children under three years of age if they have postural support needs, which means parents and carers will experience a simpler process than they do at present
- using various communication methods to support users accessing the service, and to keep them informed whilst they use the service.
As part of the new way of working, the wheelchair service will also look to ensure that service users continue to be involved in future service developments.
Wheelchair users were invited to contribute their views on the current service and say what improvements they would like to see, particularly regarding waiting times, service location, choice and control and methods of contacting the service.
A focus group was held with wheelchair users and 89 people also responded to a survey, including carers and the parents of children who use wheelchairs. A smaller session was also held to hear the views and feedback from younger service users.
Dr Timothy Whelan, a GP and a clinical lead for NHS Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which has jointly commissioned the new service with two CCGs in Hampshire, said: “Millbrook's performance and service delivery on the Island has been consistently good, and we are delighted to have worked closely with them to plan further improvements to the service.
“The CCG and Millbrook recognise that a timely assessment and provision, and having an appropriate chair for an individual's needs, are essential to the lives of people in wheelchairs who want a service which is flexible, responsive and high-quality.”
Alison Smith, the CCG's Managing Director, said: “When we met service users, their major concerns were around service accessibility; responsiveness, including providing chairs quickly when needed; and having a comprehensive service which provides assessment, delivery, fitting, maintenance, repairs, continuity and had easy-to-reach staff.
“We have listened to what people told us and acted on it in liaison. Both we and Millbrook are determined to try to deliver the best possible service.”
Annette Cairns, Clinical and Quality Director for Millbrook Healthcare, said: “We're delighted that we've been awarded the contract to manage the new wheelchair service for West Hampshire, Southampton and the Isle of Wight from April 2021.
“We believe this demonstrates the quality of the services that we provide and the confidence our NHS partners have in our approach. We have some exciting developments planned for our service users next year and are pleased that we can continue to work collaboratively to make a difference to their lives, on behalf of the NHS.”