Privatised wheelchair services up for scrutiny, 6pm Thursday 16th August 2018, Halifax Town Hall

The 16th August Calderdale Adults Health and Social Care meeting is about re-procurement of the privatised wheelchair services contract, when its extension runs out in October 2019.

Opcare has provided the service since 2014.

The Transformation Programme Manager for Calderdale, Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups recommends that the Scrutiny Board accepts her position paper as an update on developments with Opcare and on progress with re-commissioning service from Oct 2019.

Scrutiny Board should NOT accept this paper

Please attend the meeting if you can, to support CK999’s recommendation that Scrutiny does NOT accept this position paper. It is a sorry litany of commissioner and provider failures to provide an adequate wheelchair service for adults, children and people at the end of their lives.

Instead, ck 999 recommends that the Scrutiny Board should investigate the (in)competence of the-then Commissioning Support Unit and local Clinical Commissioning Groups in making such a botched job of the 2014 procurement. This removed the wheelchair services from the previous NHS provider, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, and awarded it to the private company Opcare.

The Scrutiny Board should ask the Clinical Commissioning Groups’ Transformation Programme Manager what commissioning support the Clinical Commissioning Groups aim to use for the re-procurement, and at what cost.

We recommend that the Scrutiny Board should also investigate the effect on our hospitals Trust of losing of the contract; and whether an exemption would be possible from the s75 requirement in the 2012 HSCA, so that the Clinical Commissioning Groups would not have to put the new contract out to competitive tender for re-procurement, but could return it to public NHS/ hospitals Trust provision.

A top-down privatisation ordered by the Department of Health in 2011

We have been worried about the privatisation of the wheelchair services contract since 2014, when Calderdale NHS commissioners ended the wheelchair services contract with hospitals Trust, saying “we have no loyalty to existing providers” July 2014

Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Groups has privatised an unusually high level of NHS services, compared to the national average.

Martin Pursey, the Clinical Commissioning Groups’ Procurement Officer, said in 2014 that commissioners’ dissatisfaction with the hospital Trust’s wheelchair services drove the decision to re-procure the service.

But according to the Commissioning Support Unit’s Wheelchair Services Engagement Report at the time, the initial impetus came from the Department of Health in 2011, as it prepared commissioners for changes introduced in the the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

As part of this preparation, the Commissioning Support Unit’s Report said the Department of Health required commissioners to “engage with patients, patient reps, healthcare professionals and local providers” about tendering services to Any Qualified Providers, and that one of these services was wheelchair services (for children).

Although the Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group claimed that the “existing service wasn’t working”, at the time the majority of patient feedback from engagement about the CHFT-provided wheelchair service was positive.

Patient and family complaints at privatised wheelchair service

Once the wheelchair service was privatised, complaints rolled in. The position paper makes this clear, and over the years Upper Calder Valley Plain Speaker has reported on some of them:

Here’s a 2017 comment from a wheelchair service user:

“Three years into the Opcare contract and I can tell you it has not improved. I have been going for 2 years with a change in needs and they have never assessed me (I moved from leeds clinic), they refuse to give a new chair until mine is 5 year old despite a progressive degenerative nerurological disease and the chair causing pain and limiting use. They state that 5 years is how long a chair should be kept if through a voucher. Ironically I got a £150 voucher from leeds near 4.5 years ago now and my chair cost £4.5k a charity funded it, Opcare just does not want to pay. I’m now told I can have an assessment early but won’t get the chair until April 2018 when old chair is 5 years old (hopefully they loose the contract)!! Staff are rude, don’t know what there doing, long waits and equipment not actually given to people.

“I have again submitted a complaint to the CCG to see if anything happens. I complained to Health Watch, they asked for patient stories and nothing has happened and now Health Watch have asked for people to do voice recordings of how the service has helped them ‘quite simply it has not’. It is very frustrating when you are trying to remain in work, as independant as possible and basically be what society/government wants of disabled people but also what I want of myself and all you get is massive barriers by the people who should understand. The Opcare Clinic is not even up to standard anyway – as far as I read in NHS guidance, wheelchair clinics should have facilities to test wheelchairs etc and Opcare in Elland is in an industrial estate where their private shop is and you have an appointment in one of the rooms in back which – don’t get me wrong – are accessible. Although ironically their car park has no disabled bays and I have a WAV so i have to take 2 bays up. You really couldn’t make it up if you tried.”

Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group Governing Body meetings forever have “patient stories” about how wonderful the Clinical Commissioning Group – but they never report patient stories like that.

In 2017, CK999 asked them about whether they were going to do anything about Opcare’s failings and got a brush off answer.

It is up to the Scrutiny Board to get proper answers now.


  1. Is there a growing reluctance on the part of commissioners of contracts and the contract providers to record and report the critical experiences of patients using the service and then act to remedy them? Compliments are needed but users’ critical observations of the service they experience can ensure the best possible standard of care is achieved.


    • During a public consultation event at Hebden Bridge Town Hall on the hospital cuts, we had a massive argument with a Calderdale CCG rep who said that the CCG had NO responsibility for managing providers’ delivery of NHS services, that are provided under contract with the CCG. We eventually set her right but not before a member of the public had been intimidated and, in her words, felt that the CCG had gaslighted her. Let’s hope that was an exception.


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