The provision and maintenance of mobility aids such as wheelchairs and crutches has been “outsourced” by Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital Trust as a means of encouraging competition and efficiency, and ultimately to save money.
This is what can happen…..
Previous to this year, if you had a problem with your wheelchair you could ring a place on Park Street in Hull and simply go down there to their workshop. If you couldn’t get out, they would send someone. They knew who you were and the issues you had. In my case being 6’5 and a fat bastard means having very specific settings for the foot rests and the wheels have to be done up a certain way. In addition they provided crutches, again set up in a patient specific way.
I had the bad luck to have my wheelchair and crutches needing repairs at the same time in the summer. I called Wheelchair services at Hull Royal and was given an 0845 number for a company called NRS who are based in Nottingham. Once put through it was five days before anyone could come out. I asked what would happen if someone had no access to getting out. It doesn’t matter, they don’t prioritise this way. I am lucky as I have family and mates. What happens if you live alone, or rely on others to get out?
I have supplied them with the make and edition of my chair but when the guy came out (casual conversation revealed he had come from Lincoln, how is this cheaper given fuel and time costs?), he was only able to fiddle about with it to stop the chair falling apart. He said the part would be hard to source. Too right, I am still waiting…
As for the crutches, you couldn’t make this up. My physiotherapist told me she couldn’t replace them as the hospital had just had a bust up with NRS over invoice queries and the company had put a suspension on supplying equipment until it got sorted out. But having seen the state of my crutch (stop it) she went to the storeroom. I waited outside with instructions to keep a look out and the physio literally “stole” me a new pair of crutches.
What a stupid, idiotic and potentially dangerous situation. And this is just but one example.
Outsourcing is not only morally wrong, it simply doesn’t work and private companies have no place in the NHS.