Objective: To determine problems associated with electric-powered indoor/outdoor wheelchairs (EPIOCs) and the benefits perceived by their users.
Design: Hospital-based cohort study of all patients referred over a 19-month period.
Setting: Regional Wheelchair Service for North West London serving nine district wheelchair services.
Subjects: Of the 174 subjects referred, 10 withdrew their application or were found to be unsuitable at screening, 164 were assessed and 124 were prescribed chairs. One hundred and thirteen subjects were interviewed by telephone four months after provision of the chair.
Main measures: Demographic and diagnostic data; current chair usage; self-reported accidents and component faults were compared with those recorded in the unit records; new activities embarked on since delivery; and benefits reported for main carers.
Results: Seventeen ‘mishaps’ were reported by 15 users including tipping from chairs (6) and falls during transfers (3). Three probably reflected mechanical failure. Component failure was found in 39% of EPIOCs, mostly affecting control boxes (22), frames (10) and footrests (10). New activities were undertaken by 56 (50%) users, usually shopping and visits to friends/family. Eighty-five per cent of users felt that the chairs made life easier for their informal carers through increased independence, reducing transfers and reduced need for ‘pushing’.
Conclusions: The component failures and self-reported accidents (some potentially dangerous) have implications for the NHS, manufacturers, prescribers and users. EPIOCs enhance the independence of severely physically disabled individuals in the community and assist carers by lessening dependence and enhancing social interaction. This study demonstrated the need for follow-up of EPIOC users and chairs.