Alex Cowan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson Cut Ribbon of new Wheelchair Services

On Monday 3 October, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, world record-holder and Paralympic gold medallist, announced the official launch of North West London’s two new NHS wheelchair services.

The new services were designed with full input from wheelchair users, and they both incorporate the principles of the Wheelchair Alliance’s Wheelchair Charter. (You can read the full Charter, and find out more about the #RightWheelchairCampaign here). NHS England has described the North West London service as “exemplary” and has invited us to be a case study site.

The launch event itself took place at the AJM Healthcare, near Park Royal, in Brent. Attendees were greeted with a tour of the newly-refurbished facilities, and a welcome message from NHS Programme Director Lizzy Bovill.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson gave a moving speech on the NHS’s commitment to the principles of the Wheelchair Alliance’s Wheelchair Charter, in which she talked about her childhood as a wheelchair user since the age of 8, and how her father’s work as an architect shaped her understanding of the world in terms of accessibility. The Baroness praised the NHS in North West London for taking wheelchair services so seriously and for involving people who use chairs so closely and consistently in the design process.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE has won 16 Paralympic medals, including 11 gold medals. She has broken over 30 world records and has won the London Marathon six times.

Dr Fiona Butler (Chair of NHS West London Clinical Commissioning Group) spoke about why the redesign of NHS wheelchair services in North West London was necessary – in particular, about the importance of improving wheelchair services for people with complex and/or long-term conditions, and a commitment to ensuring that the repair service is consistent, quick, and available 24/7.

Ealing wheelchair user Alex Cowan then took to the stage with a passionate speech about why repairs in particular are so important for people to live independently. Alex lives in Ealing and was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in her mid-20s. She has been a wheelchair user for over 15 year, and has been involved in many NHS projects over the years.

To finish off the afternoon there was an official ribbon-cutting, followed by the slicing of a specially-made cake, boasting a wheelchair print on the blue icing, and a presentation of flowers to the Baroness, Dr Butler, and Alex.

The CCGs involved in the service re-design and re-procurement for these new wheelchair services are: NHS Central London, NHS West London, NHS Hammersmith and Fulham, NHS Hounslow and NHS Ealing, NHS Barnet and NHS Brent. The service covering Hounslow is provided by Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare Trust (HRCH), and the service covering all the other areas is provided by AJM Healthcare.

Dr Fiona Butler, Chair of West London CCG, said:

“It’s great to see all the hard work that has gone into developing North West London’s new wheelchair services paying off. We were determined right from the start to make sure of three things: that wheelchair users are always at the centre of the service design; that the needs of carers and personal care assistants get taken into account when assessments and repairs are carried out; and that all partners work together to guarantee a fast, reliable service. We are proud and delighted to say that we have achieved these goals.”