Decision is postponed on mobility services
ADECISION on controversial changes to mobility services – which means some terminally ill patients could be refused wheelchairs – has been postponed as not enough councillors turned up to vote on it.
If approved, changes to the Posture and Mobility Clinic are expected to release nearly £40,000, to be reinvested in other parts of the service which caters for patients in Rochdale and Bury.
But there would be drawbacks for the elderly, those receiving end-of-life care and children and adults whose postural or mobility problems are not permanent.
Wheelchairs would be taken out of care homes and terminally ill patients’ automatic entitlement to a wheelchair would stop.
The decision was due to be made on Tuesday, by Rochdale’s Integrated Commissioning Board – which is made up of Rochdale councillors and NHS chiefs.
But at least three of the council’s voting members must be present – and as neither Coun Iftikhar Ahmed or Coun Sarah Rowbotham were present, the issue could not be decided.
Couns Allen Brett and Kieran Heakin attended the meeting.
Coun Ahmed told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he was unable to attend due to work commitments, while Coun Rowbotham was said to be stuck in heavy traffic.
A decision on whether to launch a public consultation on further savings proposals – expected to include cuts to fertility services – has also been deferred. Another meeting is now expected to be held at Number One Riverside, on Monday.
The Posture and Mobility Centre has struggled financially and health chiefs say their proposals would help to provide wheelchairs to patients most urgently in need, while meeting NHS waiting-time targets.
But, controversially, this would also mean taking wheelchairs out of care homes and ending automatic entitlement to a wheelchair for the terminally ill patients.
And chiefs are also recommended to stop supplying chairs to adults and children who do not have a permanent posture or mobility problem, but use them occasionally due to behaviour issues.
A report to the ICB says that if the recommendations are not approved the service would ‘continue to represent poor value for money and continue to struggle to deliver its core service and treatment within defined target times’.
However, it concedes each of the three recommendations come with their own drawbacks – including damage to the services’ reputation.
It admits that terminally ill patients, who would lose their automatic entitlement to a wheelchair might struggle to afford their own chairs.
And, moreover, could be influenced to buy inappropriate models by selfinterested providers.
There are also concerns the voluntary and provide sector may not be able to meet their needs.
There are 286 wheelchairs booked out to care homes across the boroughs of Rochdale and Bury – and a recent audit suggests that fewer than 20 per cent of these are in good working order, with the rest either in need of repair, broken, or lost.
By not removing them the service could be liable for injuries to patients transported in ill-suiting chairs.
There would also be savings from no longer replacing 20 chairs a year under a rolling programme.
The report warns that homes, patients and families may not welcome the move. But stopping supplying chairs from the children and adults who only need them occasionally – sometimes for behavioural reasons – could be the most controversial.
Drawbacks include the possibility that children could be excluded from school trips and a heightened risk of injury due to ‘uncontrolled behaviour’.
There is also said to be ‘significant difficulty’ in sourcing wheelchairs for children on the private supply market.
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