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What Happens to UHP's Walking Aids?

UHP’s bimonthly Sustainability Sub-Committee always features a sustainability success story delivered by a member of staff. During February’s sub-committee we were delighted to hear from our Therapies manager who explained the Trust’s process for reusing and recycling walking aids such as crutches.

She informed us that UHP’s walking aids are supplied by NRS and Milbrook via Plymouth City Council and Devon County Council.  These devices are delivered to UHP with a unique identity ‘puk’ number which enables the team to keep an audit trail on the devices and track when patients were given them. This is important because the walking aids generally have a lifespan of 2 years, after which their wear and tear results in them being unsafe.

Once issued by our Physiotherapists, patients are encouraged to return the walking aids to UHP so that our suppliers can collect, clean, repair and reissue them. NRS and Milbrook will collect the aids directly from patients’ homes should they have large numbers of items, and patients can find out about this through their Physiotherapist or local council.

Other walking aids such as boot braces cannot be cleaned effectively enough to ensure sufficient NHS decontamination, and as such are not fit for reuse. Similarly, non NRS or Milbrook aids that do not possess an audit trail can’t be used again in the NHS system. However, this obstacle is not mighty enough to trip up our therapy team! In these cases, the used aids are collected and donated to overseas charities who are always looking for medical equipment.

Looking ahead, the therapies team are keen to work with suppliers to remove the soft plastic packaging on the aids to help reduce plastic waste, and the Sustainability team are working with the Emergency Department to establish a reuse walking aid scheme there too.

It’s always great to hear about the individual trust-wide sustainability projects that our staff are involved with, and the sub-committee is a tried and tested way to inform senior leaders about projects and perhaps get some advice when moving forward with an idea.

Have a scheme you’d like to tell us about? Get in touch plh-tr.sustainability@nhs.net 

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