Ongoing delays and shortages to accessing mobility equipment for patients

Concerns have been raised about shortages of mobility equipment from NHS suppliers, such as four wheeled walkers.

The shortages are reportedly due to congestion at UK ports and the impact of COVID-19 on manufacturing, which is threatening supply chains.

Concerns have been raised by physiotherapists working with older people, who were warned by a leading mobility aid supplier in June that UK customs officials had held back seven containers of mobility equipment without explanation or a release date. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) also reported cautions sent to members in June about Yantian Port in China, one of the key ports for global distribution of equipment, being shut down due to an outbreak of Covid-19, that could see stocks disappearing over the summer. 

Suppliers confirmed to the CSP in June that it was becoming increasingly difficult to source stock, urging healthcare professionals to consider adapting current equipment instead of ordering new stock and to return any unneeded kit to be recycled.

Fiona Lindop, Specialist Physiotherapist at University Hospitals of Derby & Burton NHS Foundation Trust and Excellence Network Clinical Lead for therapy, said:

“I recently assessed a patient with Parkinson’s who couldn’t order the mobility equipment that they needed. I had to advise them to try to purchase this at their own expense - with no guarantee that our local mobility shop would still have supplies.

“People with Parkinson’s are at greater risk of fracture and hospital admission if they fall, and without access to the appropriate aids we cannot offer the right standard of care and reduce this risk. As a physiotherapist this is very distressing.”

Assistant Director at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Sara Hazzard said: 

"This could not come at a worse time, as rehabilitation services which are essential for giving older people the best quality of life are already not being fully resumed after their pandemic hiatus.

“The government needs to take urgent action to address this scandal before a lack of mobility aids starts to have a devastating impact on patient health.”

Next steps

Following these reports, Parkinson’s UK has written to the health Minister Lord Bethell asking what action the Government is taking to mitigate these delays. Parkinson’s UK is also working with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists to raise concerns about this supply issue.

Have you or your service experienced issues accessing mobility equipment for your patients?

The Excellence Network wants to build up an accurate picture of this issue to better understand the impact across Parkinson’s services, so please get in touch with us below, with details of the mobility equipment your service is struggling to access.

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