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New legislation has been proposed to offer free wheelchairs to people in Scotland with short-term mobility problems or injuries.
The NHS does not currently have to offer a wheelchair to anyone expected to need one for less than six months.
Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie has drawn up a member’s bill to make it a formal duty for public bodies to do so.
She said it was a “relatively small change” which could make a “significant difference to people’s lives”.
The Scottish government said it was planning on “developing guidance on the short-term loan of wheelchairs”, and would “look forward to seeing the responses from the consultation on this draft member’s bill”.
Hospital discharge delay
The current criteria to access NHS wheelchair services states that the need for one must be permanent.
A freedom of information request by Ms Baillie found that only one NHS wheelchair provider in Scotland was prepared to offer one on a short-term basis, and only in specific circumstances.
The Dumbarton MSP said that, as a result, the provision of wheelchairs was varied, inconsistent and often dependent on an individual patient’s own knowledge of the system.
She said: “Not being able to access a wheelchair when you have a clear short-term mobility need can lead to a delay in discharge from hospital, prolong your rehabilitation, slow down your re-ablement and have a negative impact on your emotional well-being, your social connections and your financial situation.”