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The Department of Health and Social Care is calling for patients to return their mobility equipment once they are finished with it, such as crutches and wheelchairs, for reuse or donation to charity to stop unnecessarily throwing away reusable devices.

Minister of State for Health Steve Barclay is urging NHS staff to accept patients’ unwanted medical equipment and reuse it, where safe to do so, in a bid to reduce the NHS carbon footprint by stopping new mobility equipment being thrown away or left unused in homes.

Steve commented: “There are some great examples of hospitals already reusing vital medical equipment ‒ such as wheelchairs and walking aids ‒ and we want to see more of this across the country.

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“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.”

From running a scheme that enables patients to return their mobility equipment when they no longer need it, Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust saw 21 percent of crutches and 61 percent of frames returned. This resulted in more than 2,000 pieces of equipment being reused and saved the NHS around £25,000.

However, this example from the NHS Trust does not necessarily apply to all hospitals, causing more and more medical equipment to be unnecessarily wasted.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, told ITV News: “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.”

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