Pa­tients urged to re­turn wheel­chairs and crutches to save hos­pi­tals money

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Laura Don­nelly HEALTH ED­I­TOR

THE NHS is to launch a na­tional “crutch amnesty” to deal with con­cern that per­fectly good med­i­cal equip­ment is go­ing to waste clut­ter­ing up homes across the coun­try.

Pa­tients are be­ing urged to re­turn wheel­chairs, walk­ing frames and other aids to lo­cal hos­pi­tals, as part of a war on waste across the NHS. Min­is­ters are con­cerned that hos­pi­tals do lit­tle to track down such equip­ment – and even refuse to use un­wanted aids when pa­tients at­tempt to re­turn them.

Too of­ten items were thrown away af­ter only be­ing used once, Steve Bar­clay, the health min­is­ter, said. The min­is­ter said thou­sands of crutches, wheel­chairs and walk­ing aids were be­ing binned, wast­ing NHS re­sources.

He urged hos­pi­tals to fol­low those with schemes that en­sure items are prop­erly reused, or passed on to char­i­ties that can make good use of them. He said: “In too many in­stances… med­i­cal equip­ment is be­ing used once and then thrown away at a time when the pub­lic is in­creas­ingly aware of the im­pact of waste on the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Pa­tients should be able to re­turn the count­less pairs of per­fectly good crutches sit­ting un­used in the cor­ner of liv­ing rooms across the coun­try and know they will be put to good use help­ing oth­ers, ei­ther in the NHS or else­where through char­ity do­na­tions.”

A scheme at Mid Es­sex Hospi­tal Ser­vices NHS Trust reuses walk­ing aids that pa­tients have re­turned, such as frames and crutches. When re­turned, the items are reused or re­cy­cled; last year 21 per cent of crutches and 61 per cent of walk­ing frames were re­turned. This gen­er­ated sav­ings of more than £25,000, of­fi­cials said.

Rachel Power, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Pa­tients As­so­ci­a­tion, said: “Pa­tients are of­ten be­wil­dered that the NHS does not ask for equip­ment back when they have fin­ished us­ing it, and some­times even find that the NHS can make it baf­flingly hard when they try to re­turn it. This can raise ques­tions in peo­ple’s minds about the ef­fi­ciency of the NHS, and even un­der­mine con­fi­dence in it – all com­pletely need­lessly.”

“We’d like to see an NHS where pa­tients are able to re­turn equip­ment that is no longer needed, and where equip­ment will be sen­si­bly re­cy­cled and reused when it can be,” she said.

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