Mobility aid patients face NHS delays
Hundreds of disabled patients reliant on NHS equipment to help them move have suffered delays of up to a year, a BBC investigation has revealed.
Complaints by patients using equipment including leg braces and neck collars prompted a review of the service.
Patient group Healthwatch Cornwall found the delays left "vulnerable people at more risk of harm".
NHS Kernow said it was confident the issue was under control and waiting times were improving.
NHS Kernow reported the longest delay a patient suffered since October 2014 was 136 days, however Helen Purchase from Hayle said her leg calliper "took well over a year to make and it was modelled on something I had before."
She contracted polio 65 years ago and uses two callipers provided by the NHS.
She said: "If I take my callipers off when I get up first thing in the morning I can hardly move around at all, I can't put any weight on my right leg. It's absolutely my lifeline."
Figures from the NHS Kernow stated the 496 people suffered delays between October 2014 and September 2015.
Three private orthotists treat about 6,300 people in the county on behalf of the NHS.
Patients are provided with free surgical appliances including leg callipers, footwear and splints.
A report by Healthwatch Cornwall based on patient feedback found they were frustrated over long waiting times and poor communication.
It said: "These points exacerbate the current issues they face around living an independent pain free life."
Healthwatch Cornwall key findings:
- Repairs and replacements can take several months
- Appointments for initial consultation or fitting can take more than 17 weeks
- Some patients are being denied equipment due to cost
- Appointment dates and times can be changed on multiple times leaving service users confused
Evelyn Mann, 70, who lives in Bodmin waited for almost seven months to get her leg calliper refurbished after it started causing a leg sore.
She said: "You get very frustrated that your life is passing you by waiting for something which is keeping you on your feet."
NHS Kernow refused to comment on individual cases but apologised for the delays and said "patient experience is high" according to its latest survey.