TradePoint talks to Krys Jarvis, chair of the NWMF, to ind out more about how changes to wheelchair provision could affect retailers and wheelchair manufacturers.

The National Wheelchair Managers Forum (NWMF) is holding its AGM at Naidex National 2015, for the second year in a row. The NWMF, which has existed since 1991, promotes best practice across NHS commissioned Wheelchair Services, providing a representative body for these services at national level and ongoing development of quality standards and practice within Wheelchair Services.

At the AGM, members and non-members will be able to hear the chair’s report on progression in wheelchair services and further developments in 2014. 20 wheelchair managers along with associated therapists and rehabilitation engineers are expected to attend the meeting and will have free access to the exhibition space at Naidex National. The NWMF will also speak in the Trade and Retail Theatre.

TradePoint caught up with Krys Jarvis, chair of the NWMF, to find our more about her role and how changes to wheelchair provision could affect retailers and wheelchair manufacturers.

How long have you been a wheelchair specialist?

I’ve been working in the wheelchair service for nearly 20 years. I’m an occupational therapist by profession but then moved into this specialism, managing Shropshire Wheelchair and Posture Service, attending the NWMF meetings. I then took on the role of the chair for the National Wheelchair Managers Forum in 2011.

What do you enjoy about your role?

I’ve seen many changes throughout my career. It’s always a challenge and there’s a lot of variety. We see everybody, from four-month old babies to people at the end of their lives. We see every combination of disabilities and issues and every day is different. There are also the many challenges of trying to improve the services against all the odds, which has been my mission for the past 20 years.

What do you see as the main challenge for improving wheelchair services?

Raising the importance of the effective wheelchair services with local commissioners and organisational managers, to be seen as a key part of the NHS.

Achieving general acknowledgement that these services are clinical services, contributing to the health, rehabilitation, and all work life issues of the users and not purely equipment delivery. NHS England launched a wheelchair summit earlier this year with a view to improving wheelchair services; however once again, the main issue which needs to be addressed is the resource shortfall in order to achieve a timely, expert service. It’s been an issue for the 20 years I’ve been working in wheelchair services, with increasing demand, more complex disabilities and without the resources to match.

What are the main changes that are happening at the moment with wheelchair provision?

We are having a lot of input from NHS England, which is really welcome: there’s a big commitment to improving current services throughout the country for wheelchair users. It’s going to be interesting to see what does come out of it. Up to now it’s been individual services that have managed their services with very little input from the commissioners. Hopefully, that’s about the change.

The wheelchair summit, which is officially called ‘My voice, my wheelchair, my life’ is a really great thing. It’s been developed with service users, commissioners, wheelchair providers and the charitable sector. They’re unable to promise any additional funding, but it will raise the profile and get that message out to commissioners, so they understand how important good wheelchair provision really is.

How will the NHS England changes affect retailers and businesses?

I think having more training for people selling the wheelchairs will give more confidence to the general public. IN a recent publication by RICA about powered wheelchair provision, they found the assessment process for retailers was lacking. The BHTA, who are also involved in the wheelchair summit, is also trying to ensure there are good standards in place.

The NWMF have clinical competencies developed and published on our website, and commissioners should be signing up to these. I do hear feedback from patients who say they were sold the wrong product, but this can be easily changed. If retailers want a heads up they can look at the competencies as they will help them evaluate how well-trained their staff are and the steps they need to take to improve the assessment process.

In terms of procurement, there are already wheelchair services that have been tendered out to private companies. It will be down to individual commissioners where they want to buy services from, from current NHS providers or they may look elsewhere.

What would you like to see in wheelchair services in five years’ time?

There have been approximately 20 reports on wheelchair services since I started this job resulting in relatively small changes and improvements, however the resource issue needs to be imaginatively addresses, with an emphasis on joint working with other agencies and ‘investing to save’. However, in five years’ time, I’m hoping we will have commissioners who will understand the complexities of wheelchair services to commission them properly. In an ideal world, wheelchair users throughout the country could pop into their local wheelchair outlet and get their chair serviced, and have drop in assessment services for quick adjustments. If you want your car serviced you go to the nearest garage, there should be something similar for wheelchair users. It’s about normalising wheelchair use.

The National Wheelchair Managers Forum wheelchair competencies can be downloaded at www.wheelchairmanagers.nhs.uk/pubs.html.

To find out more about ‘My voice, my wheelchair, my life’, visitwww.nhsiq.nhs.uk/improvement-programmes/my-voice,-my-wheelchair,-my-life.aspx

Naidex National runs from 28-30 April at the NEC in Birmingham. For more information visit www.naidex .co.uk.