A National Wheelchair Leadership Alliance (WLA) has been established to take action to transform the quality and effectiveness of services for people who use wheelchairs. The alliance was established as a task and finish national group working across England to take forward the agreed work stemming from the second Wheelchair Summit on 27 November 2014. The Leadership Alliance will be an advocate for people who use wheelchairs, their carers and families and will provide a high profile and highly influential panel who have an acute understanding of the challenges and issues for people who use wheelchairs and wheelchair services.

The Leadership Alliance will provide a regular forum for people who use wheelchairs, and organisations representing people who use wheelchairs, to collaborate and ensure connections across the system, to share ideas and intelligence, build strategic relationships, provide peer support and, most importantly, to influence service improvement.

The Leadership Alliance will focus on:

  • Building and delivering a campaign ‘RIGHT CHAIR RIGHT TIME RIGHT NOW’ to reduce waiting times and harm.
  • Developing a Wheelchair Charter in consultation with people who use wheelchairs, and carers and other key stakeholders from inside and outside the health and social care system.
  • Proposing a small number of key actions that all parties involved in services for wheelchair users can sign up to that will make a real and sustained difference for wheelchair users.

The Leadership Alliance will focus on activities aimed at addressing these key issues:

  • Unacceptable delays for many wheelchair users in getting their chair.
  • Harm caused by providing ill-fitting or ill-equipped chairs.
  • Waste of public money caused by supplying incorrect equipment or by delays in supplying the right equipment.

This work emanates from a NHS Change Day pledge made in 2014 by former NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson to bring wheelchair users together with NHS clinicians and managers, and with third sector organisations, to improve wheelchair services across England.

Consequently a Wheelchair Summit, held on 25 February 2014, brought these groups together to look at the problems with current wheelchair services and to identify what should happen locally and nationally to improve services. Those who attended the summit together highlighted areas of improvements and made recommendations where action is needed.

At that summit actions were attributed across six areas: assessments, informed and empowered service users, commissioning and procurement, integration of health and social care, training for staff and innovation.

Improving the experiences and outcomes of wheelchair users has now been included as an objective and key area of focus in the NHS England Business Plan for 2014/15. NHS Improving Quality is providing service improvement expertise and support to phase II of the programme supporting the creation of the WLA and the alliances subsequent development of a wheelchair charter and national campaign.