Harrogate boy devastated after hopes of promised new wheelchair dashed

Five year old Felix Williams with mum Sarah. picture : Adrian Murray (1609206AM1)
Five year old Felix Williams with mum Sarah. picture : Adrian Murray (1609206AM1)

A Harrogate boy suffering from a life-limiting neurological condition has been left “devastated” after his hopes of a promised self-propelling wheelchair were dashed.

Sarah Williams and her son Felix picked out the wheelchair, designed to improve his movement, during an assessment at Harrogate Wheelchair Services eight weeks ago.

However, the pair were crushed to learn last week that Felix’s £3,000 chair would no longer be provided by the NHS due to the privatisation of the service

In a letter sent to Sarah, the service explained that Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) had decided not to bid again for the service when the bidding closed in April.

HDFT stressed that they had been forced to take this "difficult" decision as the funding on offer in the contract would not have been enough to provide a good quality service.

As a result of the financial pressures imposed on them, HDFT said they are now in dialogue with commissioners over how to continue providing the "best possible services" for users.

Sarah said she was furious to learn that Felix’s wheelchair had not even been ordered as it would have given him some “autonomy over his body”.

She said: “Felix has an undiagnosed life-limiting condition, he can’t crawl or walk so every day is a huge challenge.

"The wheelchair he currently has just looks like a buggy. He has just turned five and lots of the children at his school are calling him a baby because of it.

"He’s become aware of it and we need a wheelchair that matches his ability. During the assessment we were told there no problems and they agreed Felix needed a new chair.

"They even got him to go to the computer and pick his own colours. I was incredibly disappointed when I read the letter.

"We don’t know how long Felix will be with us so it’s important we have the right equipment to make the most of his time here.”

The NHS Vale of York CCG will take over the new £2m contract from December 1 and Sarah has been told that they are no longer a priority, because of Felix’s existing chair.

Sarah has criticised the Trust for their handling and communication of the issue and said many other families will have been affected by the situation.

She said: “The contract was up in April and the Trust obviously knew they weren’t going to bid for it. But we still went for our assessment at the beginning of July.

“We have been telling Felix all summer that when his new chair comes he’ll be able to do all these incredible things. He was devastated when he heard the news.

“I was furious when I got the letter, mainly about how it had all been dealt with. It was as if it meant nothing when it means absolutely everything to us.

"Felix likes to think of himself as a normal boy but the only problem is that his legs don’t work properly. He can’t do normal things by himself in a push chair.”

Dr Ros Tolcher, Chief Executive of the Trust said: “The Trust has been working closely with commissioners for some time because of these financial pressures and it has become necessary to prioritise on the basis of clinical urgency.

“This regrettably means that some very difficult decisions need to be made.

“It is extremely regrettable that people who have been assessed as requiring wheelchairs are experiencing delays due to the funding constraints placed upon the Trust.

“I would like to apologise to Felix and his family for the delay in providing his chair, and for the manner in which this was communicated.

“We are disappointed that the funds are not available to provide wheelchairs for some patients already assessed and we are continuing to work with commissioners to try and alleviate this position.”

To donate to Felix's appeal visit - https://www.gofundme.com/2p5ctkk