Portsmouth health bosses forced to hand out extra contract to struggling wheelchair provider 

Ailsa Speak from Gosport pictured in 2015. Picture: Sarah Standing (150787-7223)
Ailsa Speak from Gosport pictured in 2015. Picture: Sarah Standing (150787-7223)
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A STRUGGLING wheelchair provider has been handed a contract extension by health bosses despite having one of the worst waiting times in the country, it can be revealed today.

Portsmouth CCG decided to hand out a year-long extension to Millbrook Healthcare despite patients not being able to access specialist wheelchairs and repairs quickly enough.

Research conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that in 2017-18, four of the worst performing clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) for wheelchair services across the country had their service run by Millbrook Healthcare.

This included Portsmouth, South-East Hampshire, West Hampshire and Southampton.

Fourteen of England’s 30 worst performing wheelchair services for waiting times over the last two years are run by Millbrook. At three different CCGs a cross the country, half of all users failed to get their wheelchairs from Millbrook within 18 weeks.

Patients have told The News of problems getting replacement wheelchairs and specialised adaptions.

Eileen Speak’s daughter, Ailsa, was left waiting for a wheelchair for five years and despite now having the chair, the family still have to deal with the NHS contractor.

The 22-year-old from Gosport has cerebral palsy but was given a manual wheelchair when she was nine.

Mum Eileen said: ‘This doesn’t surprise me at all.

‘I feel sorry for the the workers as our woman who deals with us is lovely and for them they can’t give the service they want in this situation.

‘I would personally like to see the back of Millbrook but I think it should only be given to another company if they are actually going to deal with the issues and backlogs otherwise it is just passing the problem along.’

In 2018 health bosses at Portsmouth CCG were told about the range of issues the company was facing.

Minutes of the organisation’s governing body meeting in September 2018 said: ‘The committee were informed that due to a range of issues the CCG does not want to continue with the current provider.

‘However, in order to ensure enough time for a full procurement, it has been proposed that a direct award is made to the current provider, with a number of conditions.’

As a result Millbrook was granted a combination of one-and two-year extensions at different CCGs across the region.

Suzannah Rosenberg, director of quality and commissioning for NHS Portsmouth CCG, told the Bureau: ‘The contract with Millbrook has been extended for one year to ensure users have a stable service while we look for a model to bring in from April 2020.

‘The process for procuring that new service is already underway.’

Speaking about its various contracts across the country, a Millbrook spokesperson said: ‘Transitioning from one provider to another is often challenging and we are working closely with individual service users and their representatives to address the feedback we have received [...] we are having detailed discussions with commissioners around eligibility criteria specifically and service improvement more generally.

‘Millbrook Healthcare refutes assertions made by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism on the basis that they are not factually correct.

‘Demand for wheelchair services was significantly greater than what the CCGs were able to pay for.’

For more information on The Bureau of Investigative Journalism click here.