A disabled teenager waited nine months for the wheelchair she needed from Huddersfield health services, the Examiner can reveal.
The 14-year-old’s mother spoke out last August after the lack of chair threatened her chances of attending the trip of a lifetime to Florida.
After being assessed last May the family, who do not want to be identified, have now confirmed their new chair arrived two weeks ago.
Thankfully the youngster did manage to take her place on the ‘Dreamflights’ scheme after a chair was donated by charity.
Wheelchair services in Calderdale, Huddersfield and North Kirklees are now run by private firm Opcare but there are concerns over the system.
The company was awarded the three year £4.5m contract by the three areas’ clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) after they undercut a bid by the previous provider, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, by several million pounds.
The Oxfordshire-based company took over the contract last October and said it was hopeful people would see improvements very quickly.
But the Huddersfield mum, who also complained about the service offered by the hospitals, said she thought there hadn’t been significant improvement since Opcare took over.
She said: “I’m not impressed with the wait we’ve had, I think it’s ridiculous.
“At the moment they are only offering appointments during school time, which when you’re dealing with children isn’t acceptable.”
A spokeswoman for Opcare said: “Significant progress has been made to reduce the inherited waiting lists, and continues to progress.
“Opcare has introduced various improvements within the service provision, which have increased efficiency and enabled the waiting times for clients to be reduced significantly within recent months.
“In recent months we have introduced additional clinics to the service, which have enabled a number of clients to be provided for through a single visit, whereby they have received an assessment and their wheelchair has been built on site during the appointment, enabling the client to take their wheelchair home with them on the day of assessment.
“In addition we shall shortly be moving into larger premises which will provide a more pleasant environment for client’s visiting the service, in addition to increasing the number of clinic rooms held within the Service Centre.”
Politicians and NHS campaigners have also said they are getting reports that the problems have not been resolved.
Calderdale Labour group leader, Clr Megan Swift, said she had heard some “dreadful stories” of delays and inappropriate provision.
North Kirklees NHS Support Group also confirmed it was investigating the issue after reports of parents with disabled children having problems getting wheelchairs.
NHS Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group which oversees wheelchair services for the three areas, said Opcare had reduced waiting times from an average of about five months to about three-and-a-half months.
Martin Pursey, Head of Contracting and Procurement for NHS Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group, said Opcare had inherited a waiting list of 158 children and had significantly reduced the backlog.
“Opcare has introduced a number of new initiatives and they have begun to meet with local disability groups to discuss the implementation of a patient experience approach which will enable us to gather people’s views on the service moving forward.
“We are very pleased with progress over the last few months but we recognise that there are still a number of children waiting for equipment. The CCGs have therefore invested some additional resource to ensure that we can meet all current and future requests.”