Is quality a thing of the past? That seems a stupid question, after all everywhere you look things are advertised as luxury, professional or pro for short. Advertising tells us that things are built better, stronger, more durable… yeah right, we all believe that don’t we? In fact we have become the quality control department for most products. Instead of manufacturers checking them, they are sent as is and fail in our home. We then send them back or bin them. Built in obsolescence. Never mind the lack of quality feel the short product life.
I have an NHS power wheelchair it’s a Quickie Salsa M2 and I am really grateful to have such an amazing tilt and tip wheelchair supplied. It’s transforms my life. But I cannot ignore that it seems to be very poorly made. I have had it for a year and well within that year the frame started to move alarmingly, what I mean by that is it’s become loose and rickety. Add to that the paint peeled so badly that rust was the main colour visible on the frame. I wonder if the NHS commissioners request poorly built? Obviously not, and when you consider that this chair is available privately and cost about £7000 for the setup I have, I do wonder at the excuse Quickie would have for what appears to be poor quality manufacture. I know the NHS get them for more nearer £4000 so do you think Quickie USA have two production lines? One that only applies one coat of poor quality paint and uses low quality parts that go to the NHS and a better line for private? I am of course joking, well half joking, they will make only one version. I can’t see how the NHS who are paying companies like Quickie millions of pounds can get such seemingly poor products from them. What is happening with the people who select these companies? Do they check on quality? Don’t tell me they are NHS products I told you these same chairs are available privately. They are merely bought by the NHS.
Don’t give me the argument about it being better if a private company is involved either, because I got my wheelchair through a private Company used by the NHS, Milbrook. So if private companies are really the way forward to drive up quality through competition and quality control I would be saying how wonderfully built my chair was. No, in reality all that privatisation does is add a profit layer into the mix. So that someone has to make profit out of the transaction. Ergo the end product has to be of a lesser quality because the amount of money being spent is the same, the product needed is the same, but someone in the middle is making a profit. Corners are therefore cut.
My first wheelchair was from a non privatised NHS wheelchair services. It was a custom built push wheelchair. It was really well made and lasted for years with no paint flaking off and nothing getting loose. Draw your own conclusions as to why the quality has dropped. Defend privatisation if that is your belief structure. I see no actual evidence it benefits us as users.
My guess is that my current chair will fail in a year or two and need to be replaced. The cost of that to the NHS and in hassle and time to me will demonstrate the folly of trying to cut corners on quality. Build a better chair in the first place, one that lasts and you repair it less and replace it less often. Car manufacturer’s learnt that years ago. They used to put very few layers of paint on. Cars rusted almost as soon as they left the showroom. Now cars are sold which boast of 7 and 10 year rust free warranties. Car parts used to fail within months, now they last much longer. The car manufacturers want people to keep buying new cars, but they do that by making new cars attractive and second hand cars hold value for re sale. Wheelchair manufacturer’s seem to have a very short term vision, sell their chairs to the NHS or desperate people who need them. Longevity of the chairs does not seem a factor, that is how it appears to me. Prove me wrong manufactures, show me how well you build your chairs.
That will not change until wheelchair users make a hue and cry and the NHS start to complain that they are not happy with the high failure rates. CCG’s (clinical commissioning groups) do you even track the failure rates of wheelchairs?
My fellow wheelies (wheelchair users for those who don’t know) take note of this. If you are an employee of the NHS and have any say in this process take note of this. If you are reading this in another country and have similar issues, take note. It takes a massive backlash to companies before they sit up and take notice.
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