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The Department of Health and Social Care has announced a new initiative which encourages patients to return healthcare equipment, including crutches and wheelchairs, for reuse or donation to charity where possible.

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 said: “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.

“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.”

Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust saw 21 percent of crutches and 61 percent of frames returned due to it scheme which enables patients to return mobility equipment. This resulted in more than 2,000 pieces of equipment being reused and saved the NHS around £25,000.

The Trust also operates a furniture reuse scheme, distributing unneeded equipment to local care homes and donating items to charity where local reuse is not possible, which helped avoid around 8 tonnes of waste.

However, this example from the NHS Trust does not necessarily apply to all hospitals as some hospitals do not ask for equipment back when it has been finished with.

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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