Wales

Conservatives say Welsh wheelchair wait 'too long'

Wheelchair users in Wales are still waiting too long for replacements and repairs, it is claimed.

Welsh Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar says despite a critical report 18 months ago the NHS in Wales was still letting patients down.

He says waiting times for upgrades and repairs have grown.

The Welsh government says it is putting £2.2m extra per year into the service, changing working practices as well as training extra staff.

In 2010 the assembly's health committee found there was a "postcode lottery" with people having to wait much longer to get wheelchairs in north Wales compared with those in the south.

Mr Millar, who chaired the committee at the time, told BBC Wales he accepted the service had improved for new users and loan chairs, but not for upgrades and repairs.

"I think the service is letting people down," he said.

"The time scales for getting upgrades and repairs are deteriorating fast.

"There's no doubt that cash has been invested and of course I welcome that. Really it's about the way the service is managed and monitored by the government to ensure it delivers."

Zoe Walker, 16, from Rhos on Sea in Conwy, has a rare muscle condition called Congenital Fibre Type Disproportion which means she uses wheelchairs most of the time to get around.

But she is waiting for work to both her powered and non-powered wheelchairs.

"Having [the powered wheelchair] I was allowed to college on my own so it gave me a lot of independence," she said.

"Now it's broken. I've got no independence. It's frustrating and annoying."

Her father Phil said: "It takes months and months just to sort out the most minor items.

"We've had it now for 16-and-a-half years with Zoe. It's always been the same but things are getting a lot worse.

"My daughter is very brave, she never complains about her disability, but we have to battle and battle."

'Increase capacity'

The Welsh government said 1,000 therapists have been trained across Wales to speed up the initial assessment process and extra clinics opened in mid and west Wales to reduce patient travelling and waiting times.

"Following our review of wheelchair services in Wales, we have invested an additional £2.2m a year to reduce waiting times, particularly for children and young people," said a spokesperson.

"We are doubling the number of clinical staff across Wales who assess individuals, and enable them to have the most appropriate wheelchair to suit their posture and mobility needs.

"At the same time we have been adopting new working practices to increase capacity and improve standards."

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