Audit Commission accuses the NHS of neglecting provision for disabled

30 Mar 00
The government has reacted strongly to an Audit Commission report which says disabled people are facing long waits for equipment that is often sub-standard or even useless.

31 March 2000

Prime Minister Tony Blair called a meeting with the commission to discuss the report, which clearly set alarm bells ringing in a government sensitive to criticism of the NHS.

The prime minister's official spokesman, Alastair Campbell, unusually issued a comment in his own name. 'The prime minister believes this report is unacceptable and illustrates precisely why we need to raise standards across the health service,' he said, adding that service standards were shown to vary 'from the unacceptable to the unreasonable'.

The commission report into equipment provision for the disabled says users are often not asked basic questions about the sort of help they need, and then are sometimes fobbed off with unsuitable or poor quality equipment.

Audit Commission controller Andrew Foster said: 'Several million people depend on equipment such as hearing aids, wheelchairs or artificial limbs, which have the potential to make or break the quality of their lives.

'Long waiting times, unclear eligibility criteria and poor quality products threaten to undermine plans to promote independence in the community.'

The commission calls for a higher priority to be given to these services at all levels of the NHS, and for the Department of Health to raise their profile through the national priorities guidance.

Nick Pelling, of the Disabled Living Foundation, said: 'The whole area is a major problem. It is a problem of funding, but also of administration between health services and social services.'

Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, admitted that 'in the past few years there has been relatively little top management or clinical management time and resource devoted to this important area of care'. He blamed 'other pressing priorities' and the drive for a 'cheap service not an effective one'.


Did you enjoy this article?