Community equipment provider Medequip has increased the scope of a pilot mobility aid recycling programme by introducing it across the councils it works alongside.
Recent media coverage has highlighted the potential costs to the NHS and local councils of discarded and retained community loan equipment such as walking frames, sticks, crutches and other daily living aids, and even more expensive items such as wheelchairs and hoists.
To address the issue, Medequip instigated the Return, Reuse, Recycle campaign in partnership with West Suffolk NHS in 2017 and has seen recycling rates increase significantly in line with this initiative.
Medequip has now begun rolling out the campaign across other local council areas where the company is the appointed provider of community loan equipment.
“It’s not as simple as knowing where the equipment is originally deployed,” explained Medequip’s business support manager, Michaela Harris.
“Equipment may be lost, passed on to another family member or even put away in a loft. We realised we needed to get the message across to the general public that it is important to return these items, but we also recognised that we had to make it easier for people to arrange collection or to return the equipment to an accessible location.”
All equipment delivered by Medequip is now accompanied by a leaflet with full details on how to return the items once they are no longer required, and every item carries a barcode label which also features a collection telephone number and a unique identifying code.
To promote awareness of the importance of returning equipment, Medequip produces posters for display at locations including hospitals, health centres, Citizens’ Advice bureaux and libraries.
The message is underlined using social media platforms and assisted by the provision of ‘amnesty bins’ in convenient places to enable service users to drop off items no longer required. Medequip has a 24-point collection plan designed to maximise collections and touch points to encourage returns from the general public.
Although not every item is suitable for recycling, with single use items such as ventilators and continence aids, currently 77% of all equipment delivered by Medequip is successfully collected once it is no longer required.
Of this 77%, 91% is successfully recycled; the remaining 9% consists of items considered no longer fit for purpose due to damage or excessive wear and tear. Here, Medequip has a policy of salvaging parts that can then be used to repair other items and return them to service.
Harris added: “We are continuing to work with our contract partners to identify new ways to increase collections and returns, to change the behaviour within the communities where we operate.
“Our vision is to deliver cost effective, efficient and safe healthcare solutions, and we monitor our figures on a monthly basis to identify successes and areas for improvement.”