The NHS has launched a major drive to encourage patients to return much needed rehabilitative equipment in an effort to save thousands of pounds.
It has launched a country-wide equipment amnesty which is calling for people to return wheelchairs, walking aids and other mobility aids to local trusts so that they can be recycled and reused.
Ministers are concerned that NHS resources are being wasted and are encouraging hospitals to be more proactive in getting patients to return equipment.
Steve Barclay, health minister, said that there are some “great examples” of hospitals already reusing wheelchairs and walking aids.
But he added: “In too many instances however 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.
“It is not only the kind of creativity and common sense the public wants to see from the NHS, but will also help ensure equipment is used in an environmentally friendly way and that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely, a crucial part of our long-term plan for the NHS.”
The initiative is aimed at saving the NHS thousands of pounds. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, 21% of crutches and 61% of walking frames were returned last year at one NHS trust in Essex, saving £25,000.
Rachel Power, 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.”