New drop off area for unwanted walking frames and crutches

The entrance to the drop off area in Singleton.

A rise in hospital equipment being found in recycling plants, sent to landfill or even sold in car boot sales and charity shops has led Swansea Bay University Health Board to take action.

Unwanted walking frames and crutches issued by any hospital can now be dropped off at a specially designated area in Singleton Hospital in Swansea at any time.

And, to make it as easy as possible for the public, the drop off point can be accessed until 8pm, with the ability to park outside for drop-off only.

If the move is a success, further drop off points will be developed at other hospitals.

Head of Physiotherapy Ruth Emanuel said: “It doesn’t matter where they were issued, any physio department will have them back, but we have identified a specific area in Singleton where they can be dropped off at any time.”

 Physio Technician Allison Rewbridge at the drop off point.

Kath Laws, the team’s lead physiotherapist, added: “We think that people are either unaware they can return items to the hospitals or unable to return them as the parking is so difficult.

“Walking aids can be returned to any physiotherapy department in Swansea Bay University Health Board, but there will be a new drop off area in Singleton, which can be accessed out of hours and is easy to access without having to park.

“We hope this will encourage people to return the items to us.”

Figures published by 66 of England’s NHS Trusts earlier this year showed that 80% of walking aids are not returned, meaning that approximately £11million worth of equipment is gathering dust in people’s homes or being dumped in landfill.

Walking frames, crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs returned to the department can be allocated to other patients, and any not suitable for NHS use can be sent to the department’s partners in Syria to be used there.

Alison Rewbridge, a physiotherapy technician, said: “I’ve come across walking frames in charity shops, where they’ve been taken after house clearances.

“I told one shop owner that the walking frame in his shop was the NHS’s property and it should have been given back.

“He had no idea where to take it though, that’s why so many end up in charity shops or, worse, landfill."

In a further attempt to encourage people to return equipment they no longer need to the hospital, the department is now using plastic stickers on all appliances detailing where they come from and how to return them.

Below: Physiotherapist Nicola Cochrane outside the drop off point.

The drop off point at Singleton Hospital is clearly marked, with arrows pointing from the main physiotherapy reception desk. Patients making drop-offs can park briefly in the disabled spaces near the roundabout. 

Kath Laws said: “Our colleagues in Morriston are looking at a similar scheme, but for now I can’t stress enough that it doesn’t matter if the walking aid came from here originally, we will willingly take it rather than seeing millions of pounds quite literally sitting in landfill sites.

“So far we’ve saved the NHS around £4,000 through our recycling efforts."

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