How can I get a wheelchair for my Mum? | Cancer Research UK
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How can I get a wheelchair for my Mum?

There are a number of different ways to get a wheelchair. This page has information about


Getting a wheelchair from the NHS wheelchair service

The NHS Wheelchair Service provides wheelchairs free of charge to people who need one full time, and for some people who need one occasionally.

To get an NHS wheelchair, your mother needs her doctor, physiotherapist or social services to refer her to her local wheelchair service. Each area has their own procedures to help them decide the type of wheelchair (if any) they will supply. Once the service receives the referral, they will ask your Mum to go for an assessment by an expert, for example, an occupational therapist. 

It usually takes between 2 and 4 weeks to get the assessment. If the service recommends a standard wheelchair it may be available in a couple of weeks, although this will vary between areas. For some types of wheelchair it may take a few months.

The wheelchair service will maintain and repair the chair. They will give your Mum contact details for maintenance services and in case she has any problems.


Hiring a wheelchair

If you need a wheelchair for a short time, or are not entitled to an NHS one, you can hire one. Voluntary organisations or private businesses have hire schemes. It is worth shopping around as the cost can vary.

The British Red Cross is usually the cheapest place to hire a wheelchair. They ask for a donation – usually around £30 for 6 weeks. To hire one, contact your local British Red Cross branch. You can find details of their local branches on their website. Not all the local branches offer equipment hire services and those that do sometimes have a waiting list.

The Disabled Living Foundation have a directory of equipment hire suppliers on their website. Or you can find out about local services by contacting their helpline on 0300 999 0004. The cost varies, and depends on the type of wheelchair you hire. A standard wheelchair is around £10 to 20 for a week. Some have a monthly rate too. You will need to put a deposit down of usually around £50. You get the deposit back when you hand the wheelchair in.


Buying your own wheelchair

If you are buying a wheelchair, it is important to know that you don’t have to pay VAT if the person you are buying it for is chronically ill or disabled.

If you are thinking about buying a wheelchair, first of all it is worth getting a referral to the NHS wheelchair service. That way a specialist can assess your mother’s needs. The service may be able to provide her with a wheelchair free of charge. Or if she isn’t entitled to have a chair on the NHS they may be able to advise her which one to buy.

Some NHS wheelchair service centres offer a voucher scheme. This gives people more choice of wheelchair. You get a voucher for the value of the wheelchair you would have had from the wheelchair service. But you can use the voucher to buy a wheelchair from a range of approved suppliers. You can choose to spend just the amount of the voucher or you can add some of your own money to buy a more expensive one if you prefer.

The Disabled Living Foundation have an information leaflet about choosing a wheelchair and information about suppliers. You can look on their website for details.

The British Red Cross sell a range of wheelchairs. Prices start at around £150 for a basic wheelchair. Specialist versions can cost more than £500. Details are available on the Red Cross website.


More information about wheelchairs

The NHS Choices website has more information about

  • The NHS Wheelchair Service
  • The NHS voucher scheme
  • Your local service contact details
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Updated: 15 December 2014