There are plenty of reasons someone might choose to buy privately, such as wanting high-end equipment, or requiring bespoke fittings, etc. But doing so could potentially open buyers up to “unscrupulous” firms, the report says. These firms, operating without NHS oversight, often look to take advantage of vulnerable people.
NHS wheelchair services struggle to support add-ons to their wheelchairs which fall outside of their remit: there are simply too many options, and too much complexity involved. As a result, the report says, the “mis-selling of equipment does happen.”
Still, the report, which is based on a number of feedback sessions from wheelchair users, highlights the fact that people do want to buy chairs from outside the NHS – even if they note that actually doing it is, at present “a struggle.”
One solution would be to extend NHS oversight without making it personally responsible for offering the additional products that buyers were after. The report explains:
“Services could offer more support when people want to purchase non-standard chairs and attachments. There was agreement that more change and innovation was needed to improve choice. People felt more providers should be encouraged to supply chairs and equipment purchased with a personal wheelchair budget.”
“An approved provider list would stop unscrupulous suppliers from taking advantage of people when they are in a vulnerable place. Is there a role for the NHS in sanctioning purchases and ensuring exploitation does not happen? There needs to be greater recognition that some add-ons are very expensive. People want to be supported to make informed choices.”
Whether the NHS is the right body or not to offer this type of oversight, the fact remains that, for now, purchasing privately is a “buyer beware” situation.
The only way to protect yourself in private purchases at the moment is to exercise common sense caution: don’t buy from a firm that exists only on the internet – make sure there’s somewhere you can go to talk in person if needs be. Make sure the company you’re dealing with has been around for a while and has a good reputation.
And, perhaps most importantly, make sure you’re dealing with a trustworthy company by checking its accreditations: the British Healthcare Trades Association is the industry’s oldest quality-checking body, and offers customers who feel they’ve been taken for a ride the option to do something about it. Is the company you’re dealing with a member? If not, why not?
At Shire, we have long been committed to improving lives, so it’s no surprise that we fulfil all the criteria laid out above. If you have specialist needs, and want to buy a wheelchair outside the NHS, just give us a call on 01604 580 600 (Northampton) or 01869 253 976 (Bicester) to see how we can help.