Walking aid reuse

What are the benefits of reusing walking aids?

Walking aids, such as walking sticks, frames, rollators and crutches, can be safely refurbished and reused repeatedly.

As identified in the Delivering a net zero National Health Service report, reusing crutches, frames and walking sticks provide an excellent opportunity for carbon savings due to the high greenhouse gas intensity of aluminium manufacture. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, increasing the amount that are returned and reused can also help improve access for patients and save money:

  • If just two out of every five walking aids were returned, the average hospital could save up to £46k per year.
  • Reusing a refurbished walking aid is on average 98% lower in carbon emissions than using a new walking aid.
  • Increasing the return rate over the next three years could reduce NHS carbon emissions by 7,400 tonnes of carbon emissions, equivalent to 281,397 car trips from London to Bristol.

All walking aids available to purchase via the NHS Supply Chain catalogue are reusable.

What is the best way for returning and reusing walking aids?

Trusts are encouraged to set up dedicated walking aid return and reuse schemes. This will ensure that walking aids are only returned to a designated walking aid drop off location where they can then be assessed using a simple procedure of checks, parts replacement and cleaning to ensure they are safe for reuse.

Find your local drop off location on the Recycle Now website or check your NHS trust website for details – do not return walking aids to locations that are not identified as a dedicated drop off point.

You can drop off any walking aid regardless of condition. Defective devices can be recycled as scrap metal, generating income for the NHS, saving carbon and taking them out of circulation, improving patient safety.

As a prescriber, how can I support walking aid reuse?

Prescribers are key to running a successful reuse scheme. You can help support return and reuse by educating and encouraging your patients on how and where to return items. In particular you can:

  • Inform patients about returns when providing them with devices.
  • Explain your returns process on your trust website.
  • Add your drop off sites to the Recycle Now website to support patients to find their nearest drop-off locations by inputting their postcode.

You can also spread the word to help other prescribers and NHS staff understand the benefits of walking aid reuse schemes.

How do I start a walking aid return and reuse scheme?

A range of resources and support tools are available for NHS staff on CCF Hub on FutureNHS to help you kick start new schemes or boost existing schemes – please note this is accessible for NHS staff only.

To discuss setting up a scheme in your organisation, or how you can help boost return rates for an existing scheme, and to add a drop off site details to the Recycle Now website please contact  england.ccf-sustainability@nhs.net.