Ray Hodgkinson MBE former Director General of the BHTA

Following the Transport Minister’s call to retailers to prioritise the safety of scooter and powerchair customers, former British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) Director General Ray Hodgkinson MBE has stressed the need for the sector to act swiftly.

Issuing a letter to mobility dealers across the country, the Department for Transport’s Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Minister for Roads and Security, said she was concerned by the rise in powered mobility vehicle accidents.

Prompting scooter and powerchair retailers to take actions including training at the point of sale and encouraging consumers to take out insurance, the letter indicated that the mobility sector is on the Government’s radar.

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Calling on the industry to come together and take steps to address mobility scooter safety back in 2019, Ray shared his thoughts regarding the Baroness’ recent letter.

By Ray Hodgkinson MBE, former Director General of the BHTA

Well, I am not one for saying “I told you so” but the words from Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Transport Minister for Roads and Security, seem to signal an opportunity for the industry.

Her letter is a clear call for action, quoting “ I call on retailers to ensure that their customers are trained and equipped with the skills etc” and the Minister goes on to say ”that the government is committed to ensuring that users of Mobility Scooters and Powered Wheelchairs remain safe, mobile and independent while at the same time maintaining the safety of pedestrians and I hope that you will assist us in achieving this aim.”

What a great opportunity for all those involved in manufacturing and selling these products to demonstrate to the Government that we are all keen to assist and have the skill and resources to do so.

I would venture to suggest that to be able to make the claim that you are equipped for the task, you have to be able to demonstrate you are qualified to assess, recommend, sell to users and able to ensure full training is provided to users. The BHTA is in a strong position to lead such an initiative and work with all agencies to develop a qualification for those involved in working with those with mobility issues and come up with a uniform training course for the user.

I am now only in a position to call for urgent action but I can assure everyone that from my work and contact within the Wheelchair Leadership Alliance, they would unequivocally welcome such a step forward.

By taking on the challenge, it will only improve the industry’s image and strengthen the confidence of clinicians and users.

Much work has been done across the industry which can be the basis of a formal qualification and user training which should be seen as a uniform standard.  BHTA represents the majority of the sector and has all the main players and many excellent people to get together and get on with it. You all know it’s long overdue.

In my experience, ignoring such a plea from the Government is likely to lead to other interventions which may well make life much more difficult in the long run. The safety of all devices is coming under closer scrutiny and you can be assured that the whole area of safe use of products for those that are vulnerable is increasingly high on the Government’s agenda! The prospect of a further review of the rules will involve everyone and could be uncomfortable, particularly if the questions being asked are: “Was the person selling the device qualified?”, “Does the industry have a process of training?” and “Is it national and accredited?”

The BHTA took the big step of introducing a strong Code of Practice to improve behaviour and provide confidence to customers and clinicians and there have been various attempts to address staff training, qualification and certification which seems a logical step to support the Code of Practice.

Convening a small number of experts from the membership and outside agencies to draft out training for customers, identifying the key principles for a course for retail employees, as well as deciding on a qualification which could be endorsed by an independent agency, should not be difficult.

Come on industry leaders, take up the challenge!

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