Provision of equipment for disabled and older people by
hospitals and social services remains “in a parlous state,” the
Audit Commission has reported.
Service users report long delays for equipment of dubious
quality, while many others who could benefit are excluded by
stringent eligibility criteria, says the survey.
Little of the £220m promised by ministers after a previous
critical report has been used, with just 13 per cent of equipment
services receiving additional funding last year.
Service commissioning was described as “exceptionally weak” with
service providers and commissioners having no idea about the
underlying level of demand.
Two years after the Audit Commission first criticised the
service, it has found that commissioning is still not integrated
with wider health and social care objectives.
Some progress has been made in services for the deaf with
neonatal screening proving more effective than distraction tests on
babies. There is also better access to digital hearing aids,
although the provision remains patchy.
Sir Andrew Foster, controller of the Audit Commission, said: “I
am very disappointed that provision, overall, has not improved
since we looked at it two years ago.
“This raises questions about whether we need to develop more
radical approaches to the way these services are provided that may,
as one option, involve the use of public private partnerships and
an extension of direct payment schemes.”
Jacqui Smith, minister at the Department of Health, said
hospitals and social services were only part way through a
three-year programme to improve the services.
“At this stage progress is patchy,” she said. “It shows that
progress has clearly been made in areas such as hearing aid
services and neonatal hearing screening and highlights others where
further work is needed.
“In areas where progress has been slower than we would wish,
such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, leg irons and splints, we are
Fully Equipped 2002: Assisting Independence can be found at www.audit-commission.gov.uk/home/