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Opinion

How to find the perfect powerchair

When looking for a powerchair there are many options available which at times can be confusing. To eliminate some of this, we spoke to Matt James, director of Precision Rehab, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of powerchairs with over 25 years industry experience.

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When looking for a powerchair what are the primary things people should consider?

There are lots of things to consider when looking for a powered wheelchair, here is a list of points to consider: Lifestyle (what is the user wanting the powerchair to do on an everyday basis), what range/distance will they need to travel in a day, size and dimensions of the chair, what is the weight of the chair and what is the maximum user weight and combined weight (for lifts, house and car).

Will the chair meet their current needs and more importantly be able to adapt to any changing postural management and control changes and what powered functions will the chair need to perform? It is vital to always have a home assessment to ensure its suitable for your home, work place and other regular places the client needs to access.

There are numerous seating options available so it important to find out what type of seating can the chair be supplied with and as most users will be travelling in a vehicle is the chair crash tested and approved for both webbing and automatic docking system. Research the company you are looking to purchase from, are they BHTA registered and are their assessors experienced, do they have any recommendations and always ask about warranty length, aftersales care and parts stock.

How important is it to have a thorough assessment and what does the assessment involve?

The assessment is the most important part of the process and if possible, should be carried out with the client’s choice of professional OT or PT.

It is recommended to try more than one powerchair, select three powerchairs that you believe will meet all your requirements and try each one to the same level of assessment.

Always have a home assessment and if possible, try all the environments that you want to use the chair in such as work, with family / friends, favourite restaurant etc. The assessment for powerchairs should be no less than two hours to allow time for the assessment, measurements, fact finding and detailed note taking.

From what age can people start using a powerchair?

There is no real answer to this, it is based purely on the client and their individual capabilities and understanding of the safe use of a powered wheelchair.  In the past we have had a client start using a powerchair at the age of 18 months and took delivery at the age of 2, it is very much down to the individual.

Many NR Times readers or their clients / family members have very specific requirements due to their spinal or neuro injury or condition.  How easy it is to make a powerchair bespoke so it meets their needs?

As a company we can offer just about any modification and bespoke solutions that our clients request from specialist controls and seating to additional powered functions and bespoke items such as powered swing away joysticks, powered flip up footplate, USB charging points pretty much anything is possible.

We also work with other companies to supply complimentary equipment that we fit predelivery to ensure a fully bespoke service, these companies included Mo-Vis, Contour886, RMS, BodyPoint and many more…

Can you give us some examples of adaptations you have done to help clients?

We have fitted mini joysticks with heating and cooling systems, custom seating while working together with Contour886, electric swing away joysticks, electric flip up footplates, custom solutions fitting aftermarket headrests, thoracic supports, arm pads, modular seating solutions, even custom painted body covers and matching seat stitching.

Can you offer any advice on what funding is available to help with purchasing a powerchair?

With over 25 years of experience in assessing and supplying specialist powerchairs we have lots of avenues to advise our clients with regards to where they could seek potential funding, these can be age, disability or work-related avenues, we discuss all the client’s options and advise each one accordingly.

Bearing in mind most users are extremely reliant on their powerchair, in terms of aftercare, what type of support do manufacturers offer?

Precision Rehab take aftersales very seriously as this is one of the most important parts of our service when supplying specialist powerchairs.

Our clients are very much dependant on their powerchairs, we only deal with a limited number of suppliers to ensure we can cover all parts of the UK. We deal with manufactures such as Paravan GmbH and NHD who not only manufacture very well-built reliable chairs but also offer fast and effective parts supply.

We had pre-Brexit meeting with all our suppliers to ensure we can still offer our same level of service and ensure we can maintain our UK parts stock.  We have recently joined the BHTA to ensure with growth we can offer the same high stand of aftersales care and keep up with their code of practice.

Can people maintain their own powerchair or does it have to be serviced by the manufacturer?

Within the manufactures warranty period it is only the manufacture or their recommended or authorised service department that should maintain the powerchair.

We recommend this continues outside of the manufactures warranty period as many if not all clients take out extended warranty packages and within the terms of these policies it must be serviced by an authorised agent within a 12-month period.

We also recommend a pre-planned annual service is carried out to ensure reliable use and helps prevent unwelcome breakdowns or failures (preventive maintenance), outside of all warranty obligations the client could maintain their own powerchair but we would not recommend this.

What are the common mistakes people make when looking for and purchasing a powerchair?

The most common mistakes is not looking into the kind of everyday things a client would like to do with their chair such as travel in an adapted vehicle, will it fit in a lift at home (weight and size), what type of terrain can the powerchair cope with, user weight limits, size of the powerchair, will the controls progress with the clients changing needs, will the seating grow or be able to adapt to postural changes.

As mentioned previously it is vital to always try out several powerchairs at home, work and other local environments you often attend to ensure the chair meets all the requirements of your lifestyle and disability needs for both the short term and long term.

What are the common misconceptions people have about powerchairs?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions that people have is that powerchairs make users more disabled looking than manual wheelchairs. In most case they more enabling and with modern powerchairs more effort is put into the design and appearance.

You recently added the Glory headset to your portfolio. How has powerchair technology evolved over recent years and what do you see in the future?

In the last 10/15 years powerchairs have come a long way. These days, chairs offer greater functions with more advanced control ideas, drive from wheelchair options, design and more choice than ever and in the future, I believe we will see even more advanced controls.

For example, on a recent visit to Rehacare in Dusseldorf there were many new control ideas including eye gaze/vision steering systems and voice control systems. We recently added Mo-Vis to our supplier list and have just taken delivery of the first Mo-Vis scoot attendant control in the UK for our client and an assessment kit.

Precision Rehab is a family business, run by Matthew James and his wife Emma. The Precision Rehab team has over 25 years’ experience in the assessment, sales & servicing of specialist powerchairs. To discuss the full range of powerchairs available from Precision Rehab, book an assessment or discuss potential dealer opportunities please call 01256 300111, email:info@precisionrehab.co.uk or visit www.precisionrehab.co.uk

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News

“We refused to furlough and and supported staff like our clients”

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Despite the significant pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Neuro Case Management UK (NCMUK) declined the opportunity to furlough any of its near 100-strong team. Martin Gascoigne, founder of the Sheffield-based business, explains more.

As a family-owned case management company, one of the biggest of our kind in the UK, we have built our reputation on providing a first-rate service in a caring and compassionate way.

Care and compassion are values which run deep for all of us here and we appreciate the great efforts our team go to for our clients. So in times when the going gets tough, we will always show we’ll support them every step of the way.

The furlough scheme was an introduction that many businesses took advantage of, and undoubtedly there are financial benefits in doing so, but for us it was not an option.

Although we have almost 100 staff now across our four offices, covering the whole of England and Wales, and the financial cost of sustaining them all throughout the lockdown period was undeniably a very significant commitment, it was something we wanted to do.

Our team are very loyal and committed and we wanted them to have the security of knowing their full wages would be paid every month.

Martin Gascoigne

We are proud to have the ethos of a family business, we look after our own and we’ll continue to do that as we grow further.

That’s the real USP of what we do – we’re not part of a conglomerate, we’re an independent business which knows all of its team personally and are really pleased to back them however we can.

They deliver a fantastic service to our clients, so we support them in the same way.

We pride ourselves not just on the quality of service we offer, but also on the breadth. We’re very unusual for a case management company in that we have the full range of services in-house, so we’re a one stop shop service provider.

I started off NCMUK ten years ago, in September 2010, and at first there was just me.

At that time, we only provided support for adult clients with brain injuries, based on the experience and expertise I’d built up during my time as a senior brain injury social worker and CQC registered manager of a 60-bed neuro rehab hospital.

Over the years, we’ve added more people and capability to the team, and have enhanced our services to support spinal injury clients, including children.

We now offer everything you’d need from a case management company, from start to finish. We also added a sister company which advises on benefits and payroll.

So if a benefits review is needed for someone who is a low earner, we can do that.

Or whether it’s a review under the Mental Capacity Act, we have experts in our team who can do that.

We’ve built up a strong professional network based on the fact we can provide any service within the one company – it’s great from a client’s perspective, but also very appealing to those who appoint us on their behalf from the legal and medical worlds.

They can leave things to us and know they’ll get exactly what they need.

As a business which continues to grow and invest in its future, we’ve just created a new website – ncmuk.co.uk – which was a two-month project for us and is helping us to look to the future of NCMUK and how we will continue to develop.

We are working with clients throughout the country, who are central to everything we do, and are well placed to support more as we enter our second decade.

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Legal

Bereavement damages – an overview

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The thorny issue of bereavement damages in fatal accident cases has recently raised its head again on one of my cases, writes associate solicitor Lauren Haas. Since so few of the families I encounter are aware of bereavement damages it may be useful to summarise the current law in this area and set out what the potential issues are.

What are bereavement damages?

Bereavement damages are a fixed sum of money which can be claimed on the unlawful death of a loved one.

They are separate from any financial dependency claim, which can of course also be brought.

Unlike a lot of other jurisdictions in Europe and the world, within the English jurisdiction we are very restrictive in our approach to bereavement damages.

Who can claim?

The current legal position allows you to claim the bereavement award if you are:

  • The spouse or civil partner of the deceased; or if no such eligible claimants exist, then
  • In cases involving the death of a child under 18, the parents if the child was “legitimate”, or the mother if the child was “illegitimate” ie mother and father were not married.

The question of who can actually claim this award has caused some controversy and outrage in recent years.

In 2017, a case in the Court of Appeal (Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) resulted in the Court of Appeal dragging the rather outmoded position on eligible claimants into a 21st century setting by ruling that cohabitants who have lived together for two years or more (for at least two years immediately prior to death) can claim for bereavement damages.

However – beware! As is the case for parents, where both an eligible cohabitant and spouse are eligible to claim bereavement damages then the award is divided equally between them.

Who cannot claim for bereavement damages?

Despite the fact that some cohabitants are now entitled to bereavement damages, the list of people entitled to a bereavement award remains very restricted.

The following individuals are not entitled to a bereavement award:

  • Cohabitants of less than 2 years
  • Parents of an adult child who is over the age of 18
  • The unmarried father of a child under the age of 18
  • Children who have lost a parent (regardless of the child’s age)
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents.

How much can be claimed for bereavement damages?

Following a consultation by the Government in reaction to the Smith v Lancashire case mentioned above, the award for bereavement in fatal accident claims was increased from £12,980 to £15,120 in March 2020 (after seven years of no increase at all).

The new award level applies to deaths on or after 1 May 2020.

However, the Ministry of Justice’s reiterated view is that bereavement damages are token in nature and have intentionally been limited in scope to a very restricted pool of individuals.

Commentary

“What price is a loved one’s life?” is probably one of the most emotive issues lawyers deal with in fatal accident cases.

The answer is of course that no money can ever compensate for the death of a beloved family member, but it adds to the hurt of families already dealing with a loved one’s death to find out what level of bereavement damages are actually set at and how restrictive in scope they are.

As a serious injury lawyer, it has been my experience that this restrictive approach can cause real heartache and anger at a time when families are in an exceptionally emotive state of mind anyway.

Careful and early management of the expectations of the families involved in fatal accident cases in respect of bereavement damages is therefore key.

A multitude of legal commentators have sought to emphasise the inequality and unfairness of the current legal position.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) carried out consumer research in 2013, in which more than half of the 2,000 people surveyed thought bereavement damages should be more than £100,000, while three-quarters of people wanted the levels set on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, the current legal position does not reflect modern society’s view of and the proliferation of so-called “illegitimate” children ie children not born to a married couple.

It is a fact of life that (depending on the studies one consults) around 30-50% of babies are born out of wedlock.

That means a lot of fathers will fall outside of the scope of bereavement damage.

Children are prevented from claiming bereavement damages for parents in any case, which has caused many an expression of outrage when explaining the law to families.

As a comparison, in Spain or Greece you would likely be able to claim damages of around €80,000-100,000 for a bereavement which is caused by an unlawful act.

In Scotland, every case is looked at on its own merits and this has resulted in awards solely for bereavement damages reaching up to £140,000.

Unfortunately, a policy change by the Government is highly unlikely at the present time.

Lauren Haas is an associate solicitor specialising in serious injury and fatality cases at Irwin Mitchell. 

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News

The purrfect way to share my thoughts

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A day in the life of Peggy, the resident feline at Stanley House, Elysium Neurological’s care centre in Herefordshire.

Who said ‘cats have it easy’?  It’s really not that simple, after all not all the staff and residents here speak or understand ‘Felis catus’.  For those who aren’t acquainted with Latin, the language of all well-educated feline divas, it simply means domestic cat.

So you can see how exhausting it can be trying to get my own way, lots of long luxurious rests are the name of this game!

Truth be known, I am actually spoilt rotten. I get to sleep where I want and residents and staff often use activity time to make me fabulous treats to eat and toys to play with, which of course I do deserve.

Even though I am super happy here it’s been a really odd few months and I have felt a bit confused as to what’s really going on, not least because all the staff look the same in their uniforms and masks and then there is the constant hand washing throughout the day.

I can’t see their lovely faces and can only tell them apart by the smell of their feet and that’s certainly not my favourite way of seeking out special friends.

Another really odd thing, there have hardly been any visitors for such a long time although not so very long ago staff put up huge white tents which usually means a special event or party with lots of guests, food, music and what humans call fun.

At such times, I tend to lead my other feline friends off to secret places where we are unlikely to be disturbed, safe in the knowledge that when everything goes back to normal, we will be extra petted and well fed with all sorts of delicacies.

So we waited and waited and nothing happened, no music, no food and no fun until the people who usually bring in the treats started to arrive, but only two at a time.  Once they were safely in the tent their relative came to meet them, so many tears of joy were shed at these lovely reunions after many months of separation.

It was clear to see how much they had all missed each other.

The visit didn’t seem to last that long and as soon as it was over the lady who helps with the activities and her new mate ran around like cleaning angels and it all began again.

Yes, it was all a bit mystifying, but perhaps we just have to get used to this way of being and I feel very lucky to have been there to see the happiness and joy that everyone felt; their faces were all smiley, light and beautiful.

It was so moving that even I had to have a little weep into my paws, don’t worry though, it was a great way to earn extra cat cuddles and tidbits.

Time for me to stretch out now and get going with my ground’s sweep, it’s a hard job making sure I keep the humans here safe from other wildlife, especially mice.  I can assure you, they will not be moving in.

Meow for now …Peggy

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