The NHS can reuse a lot of the medical equipment that people use, and the reuse of this equipment keeps costs down, availability high and waste to a minimum. NHS staff has been encouraged by the Minister of State for Health to accept all unwanted medical equipment when safe to do so.

The move will help the NHS reduce their carbon footprint.

Of course, the NHS is not going to accept used needles or equipment that is unsafe or can lead to some form of an illness or disease spread.

Items That Are Being Accepted

A lot of items are being accepted, and this includes a lot of mobility equipment that is often in like-new condition but thrown away. The mobility equipment that is often thrown out, includes:

  • Wheelchairs
  • Crutches
  • Canes

Many of these items are left unused in homes, too.

Depending on their condition, hospitals will also accept geri chairs, hoyer lifts, slings and hospital beds. Items that may not be suitable for hospital services or that may not be needed will be offered to local charities to help ensure that medical waste is kept low.

Last year alone, the Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust received 21% of crutches and 61% of frames that were given to patients. In total, the returns for just these two items alone were able to save £25,000.

Wheelchairs were being accepted by the Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, and over 800 wheelchairs were recycled by charities for use overseas, including in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Eastern Europe.

Furniture reuse is also on the rise, with the Mid Essex National Services NHS Trust deciding to reuse unneeded furniture. The scheme allows for these unneeded pieces of equipment to be sent to charity or used in local care homes. The scheme was responsible for helping reduce waste by 8 tonnes.

The long-term plan for the NHS will rely on being able to reduce waste and ensuring that taxpayer money is spent wisely.

Reports from the Sustainable Development Unit suggest that there are a lot of opportunities to improve reuse in the NHS. After conducting a survey, it was found that only 60% of the NHS has a reuse program in place, while 91% of the public sector has a reuse program in place.

The NHS professionals also stated that they see the wide range of waste as an embarrassment, and as dampening the professionalism in their industry.

Small changes are being made to bring more recycling and reuse into the healthcare sector. The move will also raise many questions, such as if pharmacists should have the ability to reuse medications. The move would help save hundreds of millions of pounds per year.

It’s an ethical question that has already been tested in the United States and Greece, and it has been a way to reduce environmental pollution and medicinal waste. Re-dispending of unused medicine in the UK is being considered by the Public Accounts Committee in Wales.

Some £110 million in unused prescription medicine is returned to pharmacies annually, unused and discarded.

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