Making a difference to the lives of people who need wheelchairs

Ros Roughton, Director of NHS Commissioning at NHS England

Ros Roughton, Director of NHS Commissioning at NHS England

Rosamond Roughton, Director of NHS Commissioning at NHS England talks about My Voice, My Wheelchair, My Life

I loved reading Tanni’s blog earlier this week.   My perspective is slightly different as I don’t use a wheelchair myself, but my goal is the same: My Voice, My Wheelchair, My Life.

For me, the journey started earlier this year when I was asked by our outgoing chief executive David Nicholson to be the NHS England ‘champion’.  Little did I know that this would be the prelude to an emotional journey for me – when wheelchair services are great, what a transformation!  When they are poor, Tanni’s blog described only too clearly how it can make it harder for you to reach your potential, and participate in the world.  I am so proud of living in a country with the NHS, but it is clear to me that all too often wheelchair services are seen as some kind of third cousin of surgery and medicine in the ‘mainstream’ healthcare world.

Within days of becoming the NHS England champion, I had heard many stories, good and bad, of the kinds of services which people were receiving.

I found myself in tears, watching a video of a young woman telling us how the provision of excellent wheelchair services through her adolescence had built her confidence to take her full part in the world, go to university, and reclaim her life.

Fiona Carey, co-chair of the wheelchair summit in February, shared stories rather less uplifting from her wheelchair basketball group – some of which made me cringe with shame for the way that services had failed people, and limited their daily life as a result.

I then visited one of our NHS services, providing more specialist care.  What really struck me was the amazing commitment of the staff.  In a quiet but determined fashion, frankly largely ignored by their senior management in the past, they had cut the waiting times for their services and made improvements to specialist services.  But there was so much more they wanted to do! And so much more that the users of their service would like them to do!

So I want to make a difference to people who need wheelchairs.  I want to help create an environment where staff are supported to make the kind of difference they want, and are recognised for their success.

I have heard some sceptical voices out there – will this time be any different? With the support of everyone involved, I think it can be.  We have started three key pieces of work in NHS England to help the system:

  • We are building a national dataset, so that in future there will be transparency across the country about the quality of services.
  • We are reviewing our financial systems (and the ‘tariff’) to improve the incentives for excellent services.
  • And we are working to support and ignite commissioners to pay attention to this area – what does good look like, and are commissioners proud of what they are securing for their population?

But long-term improvement will only happen if we all mobilise together:  users, families, staff, commissioners, manufacturers and providers.  Join the alliance for change – My Voice, My Wheelchair, My Life – and see what difference you can make.  I will be there on 27 November, pledging my support, to make sure that in years to come I can be even prouder of our NHS.

More information: www.nhsiq.nhs.uk/MyWheelchair

Join the conversation on Twitter #MyWheelchair

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3 thoughts on “Making a difference to the lives of people who need wheelchairs

  1. Great blogs Ros and Tani, thank you,
    I have been working supporting improvement with 15 wheelchair services teams across Yorkshire and Humber and learnt much over the last year. Having worked in my career as a clinician, commissioner, researcher and now an improvement manager I am able to relate to the many different perspectives of all the established and emerging communities sharing the passion for improvement over the last 10 years at least. There is sooo much good work and silos’ of best practice in all our regions but despite this we are here having not yet made the transnational change that is required, hence the newly energised movement of “My Voice, My wheelchair, My life”, truely coming from the heart of the person who matters.

    However, we need to do things differently this time, we need to join up our disconnected communities, which is a challenge in itself because we need to do much more than just talk together, we need to work and connect together to generate the collective wisdom on how to do the right thing every time for every patient.

    Importantly the people at the hearts of our services our wheelchair teams need to be supported and developed by all of us, they are the people who continue to work truely inside the broken processes and systems which we have created and yet they continue to feel beaten up by complaints and performance failures. They know that they take too long to provide wheelchairs, they want to do better, but what they really need is us to provide the support, resources to allow them to do this.

    I ask all the passionate communities we work with, wheelchair users and wheelchair service teams to collectively think about “Our voices, Our wheelchair services and our lives” because only by breaking down our turf wars, peeling off our layers and coming together can we begin to make a difference together.

    Angela Green
    Improvement Programme Manager
    Improvement Academy (Y&H AHSN)

  2. Thank you Angela for your defence of Wheelchair Service Staff. Every time there is a review we get told we don’t know how to assess people, we don’t do things quickly enough, we don’t understand disabled peoples needs. We get told we’re failing. The unfortunate truth is that excellence carries a price tag. 3 therapists cannot possibly assess or advise 8,000 clients in a timely manner, or even the percentage of those users who really need our help. Small budgets cannot possibly supply the equipment we would like to supply. A basic wheelchair costs about £100 pounds a more sophisticated one which can truly enhance someone’s mobility about £900. I know how to assess someone, I understand what is important to my clients. I don’t understand how if our budgets remain as they are we can achieve what we would all like. Yes, different ways of working will bring improvements in waiting lists. Yes, innovating use of budgets can bring savings. But will that be enough? I don’t think so. I still care passionately about helping my clients but I think this will be the last review I see. Either this time there will be the changes and improvement we all want or frankly after 16 years of reviews I’ve had enough.

    • Much of the problem has been about inadequate funding based on a complete lack of understanding of what needs to be done to get from a – z
      You quote monetary terms that are unfortunately the NHS heavily discounted prices which the majority of Service Users have no knowledge of so when provision is refused they cannot understand the apparently pitiful sum they are offered under the voucher scheme. I know of only two services that publish their Voicher values

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