Harrogate boy’s wheelchair dream dashed

Five-year-old Felix with his mum, Sarah.

Five-year-old Felix with his mum, Sarah.

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A boy suffering from a life-limiting neurological condition has been left “devastated” after his hopes of a promised self-propelling wheelchair were dashed.

Five-year-old Felix Williams, who is unable to crawl or walk, picked out his wheelchair during an assessment at Harrogate Wheelchair Services eight weeks ago.

But the youngster and his mum, Sarah, were crushed to learn last week that the £3,000 chair would no longer be provided.

In a letter, the company explained to Sarah that Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust had decided not bid again for the service when their contract expired in April.

Sarah said: “Felix has an undiagnosed life-limiting condition, he can’t crawl or walk so every day is a huge challenge. The wheelchair he currently has just looks like a buggy. He has just turned five and lots of the children at his school are calling him a baby because of it.”

The service will be provided by Nottingham Rehabilitation Services from December 1 and Sarah has been told they are no longer a priority because of Felix’s existing chair.

Sarah, of Harrogate, said: “Felix likes to think of himself as a normal boy but the only problem is that his legs don’t work properly. He can’t do normal things by himself in a push chair.”

Dr Ros Tolcher, Chief Executive of the Trust, explained that they would not have been able to provide the desired level of service with the funding available. She said: “It is extremely regrettable that people who have been assessed as requiring wheelchairs are experiencing delays due to the funding constraints placed upon the Trust.

“I would like to apologise to Felix and his family for the delay in providing his chair. We are continuing to work with commissioners to try and alleviate this position.”

A spokesperson for the four North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s said: “We would like to extend our reassurances to local wheelchair and equipment users across North Yorkshire and York that a huge amount of work is currently being undertaken to ensure that service users receive the best possible service.

“The four North Yorkshire CCG’s who commission the service have been working very closely with the current, incumbent service provider – Harrogate District Foundation Trust – for some time to address current delays in providing equipment to users.

“Funding for these services is based on evidence and required outcomes. There is constant dialogue between the commissioners and the current provider to ensure that service users get the best possible service during the period of transfer leading up to 1 December 2016 when the new provider comes into contract.

“Efforts are also being focussed on the smooth mobilisation of the new wheelchair services contract and the new provider’s plans to address any delays carried over from the current service in providing equipment and all parties are fully aware of the urgency surrounding this.

“In order to ensure that we commissioned a service that local wheelchairs users wanted, the collaboration of partner CCGs, NHS Improving Quality and service users shaped and delivered an improvement plan for wheelchair services. This work, in 2015, was the foundation to incorporate views and experiences from the community that helped develop the new service specification for the procurement of wheelchair services in 2016.

“Following the recent competitive tender process, a new provider was appointed to deliver the Community Wheelchair service from 1 December 2016. Four organisations submitted a bid in response to the tender however Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust did not submit a bid. All four bids were within the existing funding envelope (£2m per annum) whilst still evidencing that it could meet the specified, evidenced outcomes and in some cases exceed the quality and performance requirements of the service.

“The new provider is Nottingham Rehabilitation Services who, in partnership with Blatchfords, are a specialised wheelchair organisation currently delivering NHS Community Wheelchair Services nationally, who will continue to provide an NHS service across North Yorkshire and York. We look forward to working with them to achieve the best health and wellbeing for everyone in our community.”