NEARLY all patients needing wheelchairs in Dorset are receiving them within the NHS target time, figures show, despite lengthy delays elsewhere across England.

Clinical Commissioning Groups in England are required to deliver wheelchairs to patients within 18 weeks of a referral.

NHS England data shows nearly all new patients who received wheelchairs in the NHS Dorset CCG area between July and September received them within this timeframe.

But nationally, 11 per cent of adults and around a third of the children who received equipment during the same period had waited longer than four months.

Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at charity Disability Rights UK, described the figures as shocking and said: “A wheelchair enables mobility within and outside the home, allowing children and adults to get around independently and safely and live the lives they choose.

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"Many disabled wheelchair users talk about their wheelchairs as being an extension of their bodies.

"To not have a wheelchair is akin to a non-disabled person not having their legs for a prolonged period of time."

The data shows considerable disparity in waiting times between CCG areas across England.

Just 23 out of 91 CCGs with data available delivered all prescribed equipment to new patients within 18 weeks, while at the other end of the scale, 78 per cent of patients in North East Lincolnshire waited longer than the target time between July and September – the highest rate of CCGs with at least 100 new patients.

Different figures show the current annual spend on wheelchair services also differs significantly, with some CCGs spending several million pounds a year, and others, tens of thousands.

The annual spend on wheelchair services nationally equates to £211 per patient and ranges from below £2 per head in Newcastle Gateshead to £800 in Thurrock.

The Dorset CCG's annual spend is £1 million, the equivalent of around £100 for each of the 9,993 patients registered.

Disability Rights UK has called for the disparities across CCGs to be addressed urgently and for the NHS to consult with wheelchair users to establish quality standards, timescales and monitoring arrangements.

Gary Billen, Head of the Dorset Wheelchair Service at Dorset HealthCare, said: “Our service is essential for people of all ages across the county who have a long-term need for a wheelchair to increase their mobility and independence.

“Providing a wheelchair to those who need one is a top priority for us, and we are passionate about delivering the best service possible. Credit must be given to our staff who, despite unprecedented challenges in recent times, continue to meet wheelchair provision targets and support people in Dorset.”