more funding for mobility aids

We speak up to ask for better access to wheelchairs

Currently, if you have a serious injury which leaves you unable to move freely, you almost certainly won’t get a wheelchair.

A British Red Cross volunteer delivers a wheelchair

What’s wrong?

If you twist your ankle or get a small mobility injury, hospitals in the UK have to provide you with a ‘minor aid’ – such as crutches or a walking frame. If you're judged to need a wheelchair for a long time (six months or more), hospitals are similarly obliged to provide the equipment.

But if you need a wheelchair for a ‘short-term’ ailment (officially, anything lasting less than six months), then hospitals are not obliged to help.

There is no clearly defined duty for statutory provision of wheelchair loans for short term use in any country in the UK.

The British Red Cross wheelchair service

The British Red Cross is the biggest national provider of short-term wheelchair loans and last year we loaned out 60,000 wheelchairs.

Despite loaning tens of thousands of wheelchairs every year, we are concerned there is an unmet need for short-term wheelchair loans that persists across the UK.

Who’s affected?

There are a number of reasons someone might really need to borrow a wheelchair for less than six months:

  • broken leg or ankle
  • recovering from an operation
  • fluctuating long-term illness

Every year, thousands of people find themselves in just such a situation, only to discover their local hospital can’t provide a wheelchair.

Read more about the people affected by the UK’s wheelchair shortage in our report, “Putting the wheels in motion.”

Our calls to decision makers:

We are calling on the statutory bodies in all four countries of the UK to each agree a legally binding arrangement to help fund the wheelchair hire service.

Ensuring everybody could access a wheelchair that's right for them for as long as they need it, would significantly ease pressure on the NHS. This would also reach more of those people who desperately need help.

We have found that wheelchair loans can save the public purse money by preventing or delaying people’s need for support from the NHS or social services. Wheelchairs can, for example, help people to manage at home after a hospital stay, reducing delayed discharges.