Wheelchairs and scooters

One of the major worries people have when diagnosed with MS is that they will become reliant on a wheelchair or scooter to get around. In fact, the majority of people with MS will not become severely disabled.

Many people with MS choose to use wheelchairs or scooters from time to time or to do certain things, perhaps because of symptoms like fatigue or weakness, or to conserve energy. People often find this gives them more freedom rather than less.

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There are a number of services and organisations that can help you choose and get a wheelchair or scooter.

The NHS Wheelchair Service is how you get a wheelchair on the NHS. You need a referral to your nearest service. You can get this from your GP or MS nurse. Or an occupational therapist from your local social services department can refer you. An assessment will see if you qualify for a wheelchair and what your needs are. You can appeal if you don't agree with their decision. 

If you get a wheelchair, this will be on a free long-term loan basis. It might take several months to arrive. While you wait you can hire one from the Red Cross. 

Standard NHS wheelchairs are manual ones. They're lighter but take more of your energy to use on your own. So you'll need others to push you. 

A powered (electric) wheelchair is much less physically demanding. But they’re bigger, heavier and harder to transport. The NHS only offers powered wheelchairs to people who need a wheelchair all the time. And only if your home has been adapted for a wheelchair, both inside and outside. 

The NHS doesn’t provide powered chairs just to use outdoors. For that you’ll need to buy your own or get one from Motability. Or you can use your own money to fit a power attachment to a manual wheelchair to make it electric.

The Disability Living Foundation has factsheets on manual and powered wheelchairs.

RIDC (Research Institute for Disabled Consumers) is an independent consumer research charity providing free, practical and advice and unbiased reports on things like:

Getting a mobility scooter

The NHS doesn’t usually offer mobility scooters. If you want one, you can buy one new or second hand. Or you might be able to use your mobility benefits to buy or hire one through the Motability Scheme.

The Motability Scheme lets disabled people lease a new car, powered wheelchair or scooter by using either the Enhanced Rate of the mobility component of their Personal Independence Payment, the Higher Rate Mobility Component of their Disability Living Allowance or their War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement. They can help you to find a dealer who covers your area and give you an idea of prices and products available.

Remap designs and custom-makes mobility equipment to help people live more independent lives. All their work is carried out and checked by expert engineers, carpenters, technicians and occupational therapists. Their help is provided free of charge because they are a charity.

We also partner with TGA who sell high-quality mobility products. You can get 10% off your purchase by speaking to a member of the team on 0800 058 4145.

Please note: we can’t recommend their products over another maker. And you should always shop around for what’s right for you.

The four nations of the UK have their own systems for paying for wheelchairs, with different support to help cover costs. 

If you do need to find money for a wheelchair or extras for it, funding can come from:

  • charities, trusts and benevolent funds
  • grants, including the Access to Work scheme 
  • the Motability scheme 
  • or appealing for money on a crowdfunding website like JustGiving or Kickstarter

You can apply for financial help paying to have your home adapted for a wheelchair. In Scotland this is through the Scheme of Assistance. Everywhere else it’s through a Disabled Facilities Grant.

Personal Wheelchair Budgets

In England, if your local Wheelchair Service decides you qualify for an NHS wheelchair, you’ll get a Personal Wheelchair Budget (PWB). This is how much the NHS will spend on a basic wheelchair for you. You can also use this budget as a contribution towards a better model or to buy extras for the chair. It’s possible for your local council, through its social services department, to add to the budget to help you upgrade or pay for extras. Your Wheelchair Service will explain your options in detail.


Electric scooters and wheelchairs that have a maximum speed of 4mph are for pavement use only and thereby cannot be used on the road, and do not need taxing.

Electric scooters/wheelchairs that travel up to 8mph can be used on the road and must be registered with the DVLA but don't need to be taxed. Whilst electrically propelled vehicles are exempt from paying vehicle tax it is still necessary to obtain and display a 'nil' or free tax disc annually.

If your Electric scooter/wheelchair is not registered or taxed, you can do this by completing either a V55/4 or V55/5 form, and taking it to your local DVLA office. You will also require personal identification and evidence of vehicle age which you can get from the supplier.

You will be issued with a 'nil' or free tax disc.

Find out more about the rules for scooters and powered chairs on the GOV.UK site.

You can be legally liable if you hit and injure anyone, or damage property, while using a wheelchair or scooter. So public liability insurance is a good idea. 

Check with your wheelchair service if this kind of insurance is included automatically, or whether you need to arrange this yourself. 

You can add a wheelchair to your household insurance to cover it against theft or fire. Or you can insure it separately. Again, your wheelchair service can advise you. Our MS Helpline have details of companies that insure wheelchairs and scooters. 

Electric scooters and wheelchairs provided on the Motability scheme will be automatically insured whilst still on their Hire Purchase Agreement. If you are unsure, contact Motability direct.

Find out more about dealing with insurance