Talking to healthcare professionals about equipment and assistive technology

This information applies to England and Wales.

There are various healthcare professionals you can talk to about equipment and assistive technology. This depends on:

The process depends on:

  • if the product is standard or needs to be tailored to you
  • if it's available in your area
  • how many teams are involved in your assessment

Warning It's your right to ask

You might think that you will not receive the equipment you want. Remember you're the expert on your body or condition. It's your right to ask for what you need.

Who you can talk to

Talk to your GP first if you do not know what you need or do not use other healthcare services. They will help you work out who to speak to. They can refer you to other healthcare professionals.

If your GP is not aware of the referral process, ask to speak with another GP at the surgery. If this does not work, try searching what services are available in your area and contacting them directly.

Search local health services in England (NHS England)

Occupational Therapists (OT)

OTs can help you assess your needs and find out if a piece of equipment or assistive technology is right for you. Ask for an OT assessment through your GP or apply for a needs assessment.

Getting a social care needs assessment

Physiotherapists

Physios can help you assess equipment to help with mobility. Depending on where you live, you may be able to make an appointment yourself or you may need a referral from your GP.

Communication and assistive technology team

Some NHS Trusts and local authorities have a Communication and Assistive Technology team of specialists you can talk to about your needs. They can help with equipment like speech and hearing aids, personal alarms, phones, computers and software. If there's no team in your area, you may be able to speak with a technology expert through a local charity.

Communication aids

Community nurses

Nurses can help you assess your needs at home and get medical equipment like oxygen tanks, bins for used needles and catheters. They can also arrange repeat prescriptions for when items run out or need changing.

Dieticians

Dieticians can help you with any equipment related to eating, drinking and food preparation.

Speech and language therapists (SLTs)

SLTs can talk to you about equipment and assistive technology relating to communication. This includes items like speaking aids and software.

Social workers

You can ask your social worker about equipment and assistive technology. They will help you find out who you need to talk to. If you do not have a social worker, you can apply for a needs assessment through your local authority. Or ask for a referral from another professional like your GP or OT.

Getting a social care needs assessment

Community rehabilitation services

If you've been in hospital or need rehab at home, your local community service can help you with equipment and assistive technology.

Orthotics and prosthetics departments

Orthotics and prosthetics teams at hospitals can give you equipment to wear that helps with mobility, or to recover or avoid injury. Talk to your local department about equipment like insoles, braces, splints, footwear, spinal jackets and specialist prosthetics.

Wheelchair services

You can get a referral from your GP or physiotherapist to your local NHS wheelchair service. They can help you with wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

Getting a wheelchair

Going private

If you do not get the referral you want through the NHS, you could pay to see a private healthcare professional to discuss your needs. You can find them through official authorities, such as:

British Dietetic Association

Chartered Society of Physiotherapists

British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists

Find a speech and language therapist (ASTLIP)

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

Royal College of Occupational Therapists

Paying for equipment

Most disabled people who need equipment to help them to live more independently can get it from their local authority.

Paying for disability equipment and assistive technology

As a last resort, you could look into raising the funds yourself, but get advice about the effect on your benefits.

Fundraising for things you need

Personal budgets

A personal budget is money from your local authority or the NHS that helps to fund your care and support. This is also called direct payment funding.

Personal budgets for adults, children and carers

You might be eligible for a personal budget if you:

  • are disabled or care for a disabled person and
  • have needs that are not met

There are 5 types of personal budgets. They all do the same thing but are for different situations:

Warning When you do not pay for your equipment

Local authorities cannot charge for some types of care and support. This includes:

  • care for up to 6 weeks after you leave hospital (known as intermediate care or reablement)
  • community equipment, such as aids and minor adaptations costing up to £1,000

Aids and minor adaptions can include:

  • grab rails
  • a ramp into your home
  • a kettle that is easier to pour

Household gadgets and equipment to make life easier (NHS)

If you're in education or work

If you need equipment or assistive technology to help you in school and college, you can speak with a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or disability adviser. They can help you apply for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Applying for an EHCP

As a student, you can speak with your tutor about Disabled Students Allowance to help get what you need and cover the cost.

Disabled Students Allowance

At work, you can speak with your employer about Access to Work. You may be able to get a grant to help cover the cost of what you need.

Access to Work

Preparing for your meeting

You may not have much time to explain your needs to a healthcare professional like a doctor, OT or specialist. There are some things you can prepare to help you make the most of your time and receive the best support possible.

Explain your needs in writing

Before your phone call or meeting, write down:

  • the task you want to do and why it's difficult
  • things you've tried and why they do not work
  • how you think the equipment or assistive technology will help you

This will be helpful if you have to speak with healthcare professionals who have not met you yet.

Finding the right equipment and assistive technology

Make a list of questions

Have a list of questions ready. You may want to ask them:

  • what their role is and what team or service they work with
  • their work mobile number, office number and email address
  • what happens after your first meeting
  • what the process is
  • when you can expect to hear from them
  • what you should do if you do not hear from them
  • to give you a call in a week to update you

Keep records

Keep all the information about your case. Ask for copies of your assessments and discharge notes.

Access to medical reports and health records (Citizens Advice)

Keep all letters and make notes at every appointment. Write down:

  • who you talked to
  • the date and time
  • what you discussed
  • the outcome or actions you agreed
  • when they said they would contact you

Ask them to explain again if you do not understand something.

The process varies depending on what you need. It may take you longer to receive more complex equipment and technology. Some departments may also have a waiting list. You can call or email your healthcare professional to ask for an update.

Warning Hospital admissions can hold up referrals

Your community services and referrals may be put on hold when you are in hospital. Speak with your medical staff if you're worried about this.

You can ask for an OT assessment before you leave hospital without needing to see your GP. There may be a waiting list. Your community team will be different to the one you have in hospital.

Challenging a decision

The NHS looks at the simplest and most cost-effective products first and what's available in your area. They may not be able to offer the exact piece of equipment or technology you want.

Challenging recommendations about NHS disability equipment

Last reviewed by Scope on: 17/10/2023

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