The British Red Cross has been closing mobility equipment service centres across the UK in the last year because of tightening budgets and mounting costs and now there is concern that the remaining services could be overstretched.
The charity’s mobility services offer free, short-term loans on equipment like wheelchairs, crutches, walking frames and other aids to people who need them to recover or during a period of limited mobility.
The services are costly to run and the Red Cross has had to divert cash to other parts of the charity, leaving many, including 11 centres in Hampshire, to close.
The latest to shut its doors was one based at Ringwood Medical Centre last week and more are scheduled for closure in the next few months.
Local newspaper, the Salisbury Journal, reported concerns within the community that the remaining sites could be “overwhelmed”.
Geoff Cheshire, from the Red Cross, told the newspaper: “We are always looking at ways to improve our service and make best use of our resources. We currently lend mobility aids from 20 locations in Hampshire; some are only three miles apart.
“This is a very inefficient and expensive way to operate. We cannot justify this expense to either our donors, our service users in other parts of the country or other local people who need our help.
“We have therefore given notice to leave 10 NHS properties and close the service at one Red Cross centre in Hampshire.
“This will allow us to continue providing vital mobility aids from nine Red Cross buildings across the county.”
Hampshire will have nine service centres remaining, which Mr Cheshire said is more than any other county in the UK.