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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. If this happens, you may be able to get a personal health budget to cover the cost of something that is not standard. In Wales, this is called a direct payment.