England

Wheelchair repair delay firm to be taken over

Professor Mike Oliver's wheelchair
Image caption Disabled rights campaigner Prof Mike Oliver criticised Millbrook's service in 2018

A company at the centre of a storm over delayed wheelchair repairs will be taken over by a private firm.

Cairngorm Capital Partners will be taking over the running of Southampton-based Millbrook Healthcare, which has 29 centres across the UK.

Over the last 12 months Millbrook has been scrutinised by Kent County Council after complaints from wheelchair users.

The repair service was contracted to Millbrook by eight Kent and Medway clinical commissioning groups.

Last year Millbrook responded to complaints about lengthy delays to wheelchair repairs by saying it was "prioritising" those who had waited more than a year for repairs.

'Unacceptable' delays

An NHS report presented to the council's scrutiny committee on Tuesday said the performance was improving.

But in May only 28% of wheelchair repairs were completed within three working days, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"Whilst average waiting times are shortening some service users are still experiencing unacceptably long waiting times for wheelchair assessments and repairs," the report said.

Labour councillor Karen Constantine said she was "worried" about a private company investing into a public sector service.

"This is an investment that's going to make money from people in wheelchairs. The service should be delivered by the public sector and not private companies,"

Millbrook's owner Colin Croll said: "I believe that this is the appropriate time for me to step aside and for Millbrook to progress with new owners, who will ensure that it fulfils its potential."

Dr Amit Thaper, from Cairngorm Capital, said: "Our firm is very conscious of the need to support the evolving needs of an ageing population and to reduce the pressure on acute services."

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