By Democrat reporter
Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton and Lomond, has lodged her proposal to bring forward a bill in the Scottish Parliament which aims to provide short-term access to wheelchairs for those in need of one.
Currently in Scotland, the NHS will provide hospital patients with a wheelchair upon discharge if they are deemed to need one for six months or more.
In the majority of cases those who need it on a short term basis must either find the money to buy a wheelchair themselves or rely on charities such as the Red Cross (who only operate in certain areas of the country) to provide them with a second hand wheelchair.
In the case of elderly patients, many of them have to remain in hospital. This leaves patients staying in hospital longer than need be and hospital beds not being made available for those who need them the most.
The lodging of the proposal takes place following a 12-week consultation period where 86% of the 93 responses were supportive of the bill.
The lodging of the proposal kick starts a three-week period where it will need to gain 18 MSP signatories from three different parties to show that the proposal has cross party support before being brought to the chamber.
Jackie Baillie, pictured left, said: “I am delighted to lodge my bill which, if enacted, will see the lives of thousands of Scots improved.
“It is totally unfair that currently in Scotland, if you are in need of a wheelchair on a short-term basis, it comes down to either your financial situation or the area in which you live to decide whether you can get one or not.
“My bill proposal has gained huge levels of support from a number of different stakeholders including large, nationwide third sector groups such as Marie Curie, to smaller community groups, health and social care partnerships and many individuals.
“I am confident that my colleagues from across the chamber will see the benefits to their constituents of having such a bill enacted and I look forward to working with them to ensure that everyone who is in need of a short term wheelchair has access to one.”
Geoff Cheshire, Head of Mobility Aid Operations for the British Red Cross, welcomed Jackie Baillie’s bill as having benefits for patients’ mobility as well as for the health and care system.
Geoff said: “Across our services, we see every day the significant benefits that accessing a wheelchair can make.
“Not only can it help people improve mobility and maintain some sense of their life, but it can support them to get to work, reduce their dependency on family and friends, and sometimes improve their recovery time.
“Our Maintaining Mobility report published last year found that 65 per cent of people with an unmet short-term mobility need experienced negative impact on their quality of life.
“Of those who were able to own a wheelchair, 90 per cent said it made it easier to carry out day to day activities, and nearly half said it sped up their recovery time.
“There are also benefits to the health and care system – service pressures can be reduced by timely discharge, avoiding home visits and reducing missed or late appointments.
“We welcome this bill as a valuable opportunity to improve mobility and independent living for people across Scotland.
“Our evidence also suggests that implementing this bill could have positive economic benefits with our analysis indicating potential savings ranging from £469 to £4,607, with an average saving of £1,676 for every person.”
Karin Orman, Assistant Director , Professional Practice at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, said: “Providing a wheelchair to all those who need it will not only support people to improve their mobility, but will also be important in reducing social isolation.
“Occupational therapists understand the benefits of helping people achieve their maximum level of independence, and hope this proposed bill will achieve this for patients across Scotland.”