With participants from virtually every area of BHTA's membership, including special seating, sleep surfaces, orthotic footwear and stoma & continence products, members of this Section all have a particular focus on providing products and support for children and their families.
In 2014 the members asked the renowned research organisation, cebr to examine the economic benefits of improving the availability of equipment for children and the key findings were:
- More than one in twenty children (5.7%) in the UK is disabled in some way.
- Specialist equipment, including wheelchairs, seats, communication aids, beds and postural support systems, plays a vital role in protecting the health of disabled children and those who care for them.
- At present, this equipment is under-provided by the bodies which have a statutory obligation to ensure that the needs of disabled children are met.
- This failure to provide equipment is worsening existing conditions and leading to complications which necessitate additional medical intervention. This costs dearly in terms of avoidable pain and suffering, as well as creating a substantial medical bill for surgery, hospital admissions, therapeutic interventions and physiotherapy.
- Our model suggests that the current cost of treatment for disabled children, made up of both medical costs and spending on equipment, was just under £1.9 billion in 2013.
- The vast majority of this spending (around £1.6 billion) was on medical care, while just £0.2 billion was spent on equipment. This figure is based on a calculation around the total size of need, and the proportion of need which is currently being met rather than a more robust estimate from public spending figures. This public expenditure data simply does not exist.
- It would cost £0.5 billion each year to provide every disabled child with all the equipment they need. This entails more than a doubling of present day spending.
- Even if the reduction in the need for surgical and other interventions driven by the improved availability of equipment is modest, these additional equipment costs could be recuperated. If, as case study evidence suggests, the relationship between equipment and demand for other medical treatments is stronger, investment in the provision of equipment could stimulate significant savings in healthcare costs.
- To recoup the cost of providing every disabled child with all the equipment they need, the proportion of children requiring surgery or treatment with Botox A, and related hospital admissions, appointments and physiotherapy must be reduced by a more than a third.
- If the proportion of disabled children requiring additional treatment was halved by proper provision of equipment this would be associated with a £ 0.13 billion per annum reduction in the total cost of caring for disabled children.
- If 80% of surgery and Botox A treatment taking place in the current world scenario was avoided through better provision of equipment, this could provide savings of £0.47 billion.
- These estimated savings are likely to be conservative given the evidence that the population of disabled children is likely to increase and that the proportion of disabled children with severe disabilities is also expected to increase in the future.
- The cost savings are likely to be much greater if further research is undertaken to consider the implications for the health of carers, the well-being benefits to both disabled children and their carers and the possibility that, by improving the health of some disabled children, some carers may be able to return to work.