DISABLED people in Dorset are being forced to wait more than four months for a wheelchair from the NHS, figures reveal.

NHS stats show that 36 people waited longer than the 18-week window in the NHS Dorset CCG area between April and June.

Clinical Commissioning Groups in England are required to deliver wheelchairs to patients within 18 weeks of a referral, with NHS guidance stressing the “paramount importance” of the timescale from referral to delivery.

In total, 765 had a wheelchair or other equipment prescribed and delivered to them in that time, meaning the CCG area had a success rate of just 95 per cent.

During the same three-month period, 119 adult patients in Dorset were assessed as having high needs after being referred to wheelchair services, meaning they were fully dependent on a chair for all their mobility needs.

But 55 per cent of them had to wait longer than eight weeks to be assessed, compared to 15 per cent for those with a low or medium need.

Of the 184 CCGs across England that submitted figures, just 10 had a 100 per cent hit rate for delivering within the target window, with more than 5,300 patients waiting longer than 18 weeks.

Rates varied significantly across the country, with the target being missed in as many as 71 per cent of cases in Surrey Heath, the worst-performing area.

Gary Billen, head of learning disability, wheelchair and vocational services for Dorset HealthCare, which actually supplies the wheelchairs, said: “We strive to provide the highest quality service for wheelchair users in Dorset and, while our waiting times compare well to the national picture, we are continuously working to improve.

“Stock availability, increasing demand and complexity ensuring the right chair is provided may, on occasion, lead to longer waits for highly specialist chairs. Our clinicians are dedicated to the best outcomes for our clients.”

However, charities have warned that substantial gaps in provision across England are leaving many disabled people without the wheelchairs they need, affecting their independence and even leaving them in pain or discomfort.

Rob Burley, from charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, said substantial gaps in services across the country were leaving disabled people without the basic equipment they need.

“Wheelchairs are not a luxury, and having access to suitable equipment is vital,” he said.“Too often, we hear stories from people who cannot leave their homes or are forced to fund expensive wheelchairs themselves.

“We must see an improvement in services, both nationally and locally.”

Warren Kirwan, head of communications at disability charity Scope, said: “Having the right wheelchair can be life-changing for disabled people, but many face an unfair postcode lottery to get one which meets their needs.”