Walking aid reuse

Why are walking aid reuse schemes great?

  • 93 NHS trusts in England already have a reuse scheme in place.
  • The How to Guide Carbon calculator (email nhsi.proctom@nhs.net to request access) indicates that reusing a refurbished walking aid is on average 87% lower in carbon emissions than a new walking aid.
  • Walking aids are low risk for infection making them ideal for reuse.
  • All walking aids on the NHS supply chain are reusable and some suppliers have added ‘reusable to their product description’.
  • Increase the return of defective walking aids is an effective way to take damaged equipment out of circulation and improve patient safety.

Background

  • Device reuse and refurbishment of all medical devices could save the NHS 202 kt CO2e or 1.4% of supply chain emissions.
  • Crutches, frames and walking sticks are in the top 20 of medical device and equipment categories for carbon footprint due to the high greenhouse gas intensity of aluminium manufacture.
  • Data from 66 NHS trusts in England identified over £14 million was spent on 560,000 walking aids, of which 80% were not returned.
  • Increasing the return rate to just 40% could save around 1,500 tonnes of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

For more reasons on why to start a reuse scheme, see our 10 reasons why walking aid reuse schemes are great (BROKEN LINK) blog post.

Role of prescribers

Prescribers are key to running a successful reuse scheme. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Educate and encourage your patients on how and where to return items for reuse.
  • Champion trust-wide messages to help other prescribers and the wider workforce understand the walking aid reuse scheme.
  • Don’t have a scheme? Have a read of our How-to guide, linked below and get in touch with your local leadership as well as other stakeholders like sustainability, procurement or facilities colleagues to start the conversation.

How-to guide

If your organisation does not have a walking aid reuse scheme or is looking to expand on the scheme it does have in place, for further guidance and supporting resources see the Net zero and sustainable procurement How-to Guide. Email nhsi.proctom@nhs.net to request access.

 

Case Study

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Hospital Trust set up a return and reuse scheme:

  • Around 40 walking aids are reused each week
  • 21% of crutches and 61% of frames are returned
  • Reusing more than 3,000 pieces of equipment and saving around £27,000 per year
  • The refurbishment process is quick and easy, taking one person around 5-10 minutes per walking aid.
  • All walking aids are safe to use and have no impact on patient care or experience

The net zero and sustainable procurement team have published a Walking Aids Carbon Calculator. The calculator has been designed to help measure return rates and carbon reduction for walking aid reuse schemes. It can also assist with modelling projected performance to support business case development.

The calculator can be found on the PTOM hub. Email nhsi.proctom@nhs.net to request access.