ACTION is being taken to reduce the length of time that patients have to wait for wheelchairs.
Portsmouth CCG, which allocates NHS funding in the city, has discussed the future of Millbrook Healthcare, which currently provides wheelchairs across the region.
Millbrook Healthcare took on the contract from Solent NHS Trust in April 2015, and inherited a waiting list of 18 months.
Prior to that, the Solent NHS Trust had also inherited a long waiting list, which it struggled to reduce during its two-and-a-half-year tenure. But Millbrook has struggled to make any inroads into the backlog despite being given £1.4m in 2015.
Currently, people in Portsmouth have to wait 31.7 weeks for a wheelchair – compared to 30.1 weeks in Fareham and Gosport and 26.3 weeks in the South East Hampshire CCG area, which covers Havant.
Now, two extra suppliers have been brought in to help clear the waiting list.
The plan is to cut the waiting list down to 18 weeks by June.
Chief of health and care in Portsmouth Innes Richens said: ‘As we know, wheelchairs in Hampshire have had a large waiting list for quite some time.
‘We have now procured two providers to help clear the waiting list and there is an ambition to help those stuck on the waiting list.’
But the long-term solution for Portsmouth CCG could involve a different wheelchair provider being given the contract.
With Millbrook’s contract expiring in 2019, Portsmouth CCG is now looking at alternative options.
Innes Richens said: ‘We have started discussions about our options – but there are not a whole lot of different providers for those kinds of services.
‘We have also had previous providers who have struggled.
‘At the end of the day we want to provide a brilliant wheelchair service to people in Portsmouth, but that seems to be a bit difficult at the moment.’
In 2015 The News reported on Ailsa Speak from Gosport – a woman who had been in the same wheelchair since she was nine years old.
A new wheelchair had not been provided, despite the family’s pursuit of Millbrook Healthcare.
Her mother Eileen said: ‘Every time she went out she was in pain. Ever since it went out of NHS hands, the service has been awful.
‘The repair staff were brilliant, but it is arranging the actual appointments and getting the wheelchair where the problems lie.
‘I’m glad that Millbrook is now under review and I hope that a better job is done in the future.’
A decision on the future of Millbrook is expected later in the year.