Provision of equipment for disabled people still poor

Provision of equipment for disabled and older people by social
services and hospitals remains “in a parlous state,” the Audit
Commission has reported, writes David

Long delays for equipment of dubious quality is reported by
users, while many others who could benefit are excluded by
stringent eligibility criteria. Waiting times for some equipment is
up to six years.

Very little of the £220 million promised by ministers after
a previous critical report as found its way into the service, 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 healthcare and social objectives.

Some progress has been made in services for the deaf. 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 the service, 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 which
may, among with the options involve the use of public private
partnerships and an extension of direct payment schemes.”

Health minister Jacqui Smith said it was only part way through a
three-year programme to improve the services.

“At this stage progress is patchy,” she said. “In areas where
progress has been slower than we would wish, such as wheelchairs,
prosthetics and orthotics, we are taking action.”



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