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Does the mobility industry need to introduce formal qualifications for the sale of medical devices that are widely considered as needing some form of assessment? Five experts share their thoughts on the topic.

In many industries, sellers are required to have some form of qualification before being able to sell a product or provide a service, from optometrists to gas engineers who are required to pass an industry qualification to become gas safe registered.

Some in the mobility industry have suggested that for products that many consider as requiring assessments, such as mobility scooters, wheelchairs and powerchairs, suggest qualifications for those selling the products would help protect customers and raise the level of professionalism given in the industry, whilst others argue it will limit consumer choice and increases costs.

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See what five professionals from the mobility industry thought about the idea…

Ray Hodgkinson, Former Director-General of the BHTA

Ray Hodgkinson former BHTA director general“It seems odd that the mobility sector is yet to come to terms with developing a set of qualifications for those advising, assessing and selling mobility solutions, particularly as many of the people they serve are vulnerable and depend on sound advice, proper evaluation and assessment to help resolve their issues.

“There are a host of clinical impacts that have to be taken into account to ensure risks are diminished and an individual can safely go about their business.

“There is a special responsibility in our sector to ensure professional solutions. We follow a strict Code of Practice and it seems logical we should ensure those who have the privilege to provide mobility services are qualified.

“We should be making every effort to create qualifications to ensure public and clinical confidence… its long overdue. It’s essential and not difficult to achieve – the basis is all there and with a will and effort, it can be done swiftly.

“There’s an accident waiting to happen and we, as providers, have no way of defending ourselves. Maybe it should be mandatory. For that matter, this applies across the Assistive Technology sector.”

Angus Long, Managing Director of Impression Marketing

angus long impression marketing headshot“On a few occasions in the past, I stepped in to ensure my elderly parents were not miss-sold a mobility product by overzealous sales agents.  Being in the industry helped me challenge their sales patter and send them packing.

“With the rising elderly population and desire for independent living, this issue is going to become more prominent. It’s not just product suitability that’s a concern, it’s also ensuring the right product specification is achieved too.

“I’d certainly support moves to introduce an industry qualification scheme to ensure the right products are provided. This needn’t be via an ‘official’ body but could be instigated via the manufacturers.

“Many stairlift companies, for example, provide courses for dealer sales surveyors. Other companies, such as Your Mobility, ensure all staff are well trained and qualified to provide assessments.

“In addition, the company employs the services of a qualified, experienced neuro-physiotherapist who provides expert training and assessments for those who require it, such as clients, families and care home staff.

“The company is happy to emphasise it hasn’t needed to raise prices to provide this level of product expertise, so perhaps a good template to follow.”

Tim Mills, Head of Business at Motion Healthcare

Tim Mills motion healthcare headshot“We work with a vast array of different types of dealers from online companies offering direct dispatch in return for more aggressive pricing to retailers on the high street offering a demonstration/assessment and more local level of service in return for a slightly higher price in order to support their service.

“I think both models can work, providing the value of the product is maintained so we are all making the margin; however, we need to support our customers and make sure the end-user gets both the product that is right for them and the after-sales care they require. If implementing a qualification system to dealers ensures this happens, then this can only be a good thing for the industry.

“That said, I believe if an end-user would rather buy online to save a little money and risk not trying the product and not dealing with someone local, that is their decision. As a supplier who prides ourselves on our service to our dealers, we will always continue to support all of our partners as best we can, irrelevant of their business model.”

Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAids

alastair gibbs TPG DisabledAids Headshot“With no barriers to entry into our marketplace, anyone can sell to the elderly and disabled without formal training or awareness of the potential damage caused by prescribing or selling the wrong product.

“Legislation is a slow-moving sledgehammer likely too big to be effective but education is the key.

“At TPG DisableAids, all members of staff likely to prescribe or assess are trained to be ‘Trusted Assessors’ by the Disabled Living Foundation. This qualification is gained by attending DLF courses in levels one to four (depending on requirement) and then sitting an externally verified exam. We follow this up with specific product training from our suppliers.

“Many members of the public will not recognise the effort responsible retailers put in prior to offering goods for sale but they will see a tremendous difference in the professionalism of those that do things properly.

“I urge all retailers to be BHTA members and seek access to this training. Those who choose not to train themselves and staff properly had better have an exit route, as in today’s litigious society, it will only be a matter of time before a disgruntled customer will claim for consequential harm following a poor assessment!”

John Payne, Managing Director of Kent Mobility

john payne kent mobility headshot“Who would be providing the training in order for us to obtain this qualification? Currently, we have no access to the medical records/clinical condition of the customer and can only go on what we are told. The assessor would need to have an in-depth knowledge of products, disabilities, as well as how the disability may progress.

“Clinical need, eyesight and driving ability, along with road sense, can only really be assessed on the day of the assessment. Are we suggesting a retest every six months? If a user passes on the day they are seen, further down the line they may be incapable of driving safely. Would the assessor be blamed if an accident happens?

“If assessment centres are created, this would be yet another blow for the retail market. The scenario I could foresee is that potential customers would have an assessment at one of these centres, then head straight to online retailers to make their purchases.

“An assessment qualification would need to run alongside the end to mobility products being able to be sold online, which I cannot see ever happening.”

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