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Chair study sets standards for professional care

A unique study into the way in which electronically powered chairs can improve the lives of severely disabled people has helped raise professional standards and informed policy guidelines.

Funded by Hillingdon Primary Care Trust and North West Thames NHS SHA, the work was led by Professor Lorraine De Souza, Director of Research in Rehabilitation at Brunel University London.

The research recognised, for the first time, the social exclusion felt by severely disabled young people and the physical and emotional stress on elderly carers – and the requirement of electrically powered indoor/outdoor chairs (EPIOC) to provide opportunities to change this.

In 2000, the NHS Executive and Department of Health estimated that there were more than 11,350 EPIOC users in the UK, a number increasing by more than 3,500 users a year.

The research, which took an in-depth, qualitative approach to explore the needs and benefits of EPIOCS for specific user groups, was cited by the British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine in its response to a Government consultation on Improving Disability Employment Services. The proposals in the consultation went on to form part of a December 2008 White Paper.

Professional standards have been shaped by the research globally, notably through citations in the North American Evidence for Practice Series by the Health Centre for Children in Canada, which recognised Brunel's research in informing clinicians' best practice concerning enhancement of participation.

A report in 2010 by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, 'Get Moving – the case for effective wheelchair services', referred to the findings of a paper detailing the improved quality of life afforded by the appropriate use of EPIOCs. The report was later endorsed by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Muscular Dystrophy.