Free wheelchair law proposed
The NHS in Scotland and other services should be required to provide wheelchairs for those who need one, even if it is for a short period, a new member’s bill by Labour’s Jackie Baillie will propose.
People in Scotland with short-term mobility problems or injuries are currently not offered a wheelchair by the NHS, and usually rely on charities such as the British Red Cross.
Dumbarton MSP Baillie has launched a public consultation on putting a duty on the public body to provide one.
Launching it, she said: “No one should have to rely on charity to get the help that they need to stay mobile in 2019.
“Sadly that is the case however for many Scots who temporarily lose their mobility.
“Not being able to get about is very restrictive, it can be isolating and often leaves a person with impaired mobility wholly dependent on others.
“I want to change that, and that’s why I have launched a public consultation on my member’s bill which seeks to change the law to ensure everyone who needs a wheelchair for six months or less will get one free of charge.
“Not being able to access a wheelchair when you have a clear short-term mobility need can lead to a delay in discharge from hospital; prolong your rehabilitation; slow down your reablement and have a negative impact on your emotional wellbeing, your social connections and your financial situation.
“Creating a statutory duty to provide access to short term wheelchairs, where it is appropriate to do so, is a relatively small change, but it is one that can make a significant difference to people’s lives.”
The Health and Social Care Alliance, which represents charities across the sector, welcomed the proposal.
Assistant director Andrew Strong said: “Access to a wheelchair can make it easier for people experiencing short term mobility issues to remain as independent as possible and, in some cases, can prevent a condition from becoming more serious.
“In Scotland there is currently a postcode lottery for short term wheelchair access – and British Red Cross findings have revealed that this is because there is no duty in place to ensure it.
“We support this private member's bill because we believe it has both the potential to encourage a more inclusive country for people experiencing short term mobility issues.”
Other organisations supporting the bill include British Red Cross, MS Society Scotland, British Lung Foundation, Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland and Marie Curie Scotland.