Charity British Red Cross is set to close numerous mobility equipment centres by the end of the year in Hampshire.

The service provides free, short-term loans of wheelchairs, walking aids and other mobility devices which help people to remain independent and mobile.

However, 11 centres across Hampshire are set to close between September and December this year.

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British Red Cross’ Geoff Cheshire told the Salisbury Journal: “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.”

Geoff added that leaving Hampshire with nine mobility aid centres is still more than any other county in the UK.

“Despite our best efforts and those of our partners in the NHS, we have been unable to agree how these costs should be met,” he continued. “As as charity we cannot remain in properties where there is a potential cost liability.”

He said that the charity will look to explore other options such as online ordering, home deliveries and mobile services.

On average, people will need to travel an extra six to eight miles to access the centres.

Michael Shucksmith, who volunteers in Fordingbridge, has highlighted the impact the closures might have on the remaining centres.

“It just means our services are much reduced and as a consequence we might be overwhelmed here,” said Michael. “It is happening already. We had people queuing which has never happened before.”

The Red Cross has announced multiple mobility equipment centre closures this year, such as the one in Clacton, Essex, as well as others such as its Lynn branch in West Yorkshire, its Lancing branch in West Sussex and its Banbury branch in Oxfordshire.

However, with all of the closures, a trend can be seen with a move towards online retail, with the charity proposing a collection and home delivery service as well as considering pop-up shops.

As Geoff highlighted, this is a more cost-effective way to get mobility equipment out to the people who need it without having a physical outlet.

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