Health chiefs have vowed their new wheelchair service will bring “huge improvements” for patients in Kirklees and Calderdale.

Private firm Opcare took over the region’s NHS wheelchair contract on October 1 in a three year £4.5m deal.

The firm undercut the three other bidders for the contract, including the previous provider, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, by several million pounds.

Opcare said it had offered all of the hospital trust’s wheelchair staff new jobs.

The change in provider comes amid complaints about the service.

The Examiner reported last month how one teenage girl with cerebral palsy had been waiting more than four months for a new chair, threatening her chances of travelling abroad for a once in a lifetime holiday.

Opcare has promised to speed up services, visit patients in the community, and operate an efficient returns and repairs service.

Greater Huddersfield CCG chief, Carol McKenna, said patients had been the centre of their decision to switch provider.

She 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.”

Carol McKenna, chief officer of the CCG
Carol McKenna, chief officer of the CCG
 

Opcare Ltd – one of the UK’s largest prosthetic, orthotic and wheelchair service providers – will retain a base at The Lodge, Lockwood, Huddersfield but will offer community-based clinics on a weekly or fortnightly basis to bring services closer to patients’ homes.

In the ‘Greater Huddersfield’ area these will be at the Oaklands Health Centre in Holmfirth.

Hayley Munro, Opcare’s Bid and Project Manager, said: “We are very pleased to be able to provide a new wheelchair service for people in Calderdale, Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees and hope the transition to our service will be fairly smooth.

“We have kept the contact number patients are familiar with along with the service base, but the similarity ends there: we will be describing and explaining our services to patients as we come into contact with them and look forward to hearing their feedback on it.

“Patient experience is at the heart of our plans for improvements and whilst some of these may take time to come to fruition, we are hopeful that they will start to see improvements very quickly and are keen to create a patients’ forum so we can gather their views and look to continually improve the service we provide.”