HUNDREDS of pieces of hospital equipment – including an astonishing 282 wheelchairs – have been returned to NHS Highland after an amnesty, saving more than £100,000.
Since the troubled health board asked for equipment back in August, 395 items have been handed in, according to figures released under Freedom of Information laws.
Items which were returned to drop-off points at Inverness and Invergordon during the amnesty included 30 raised toilet seats, 36 walking frames, 17 three-wheeled walking frames, two four-wheeled walking frames and 28 pairs of crutches.
Wheelchair and seating services also received 282 wheelchairs.
Most of the equipment will now be refurbished and re-used. Purchasing the same number of new wheelchairs would have cost £104,000.
The board is now appealing for more equipment to be returned.
Highlands and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon said it was “incredible” that the health board did not have a system in place to keep track of equipment that had been lent out.
She said: “I think it’s incredible that there isn’t a more managed programme of aids and adaptations.
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“It is astounding that there were 282 wheelchairs out there that people weren’t using.
“They are expensive to buy, expensive to adapt for individuals and absolutely essential for so many people.
“There should be a proper register of where these aids are and it should be followed up to ensure that they are being used.
“If they are no longer needed, they should be brought back immediately.
“This is the kind of waste we have had in the NHS over the past decades and it is only now that money is tight that NHS boards are managing their budgets more effectively and efficiently.”
She added that she was sure patients would willingly return unneeded equipment in order to help others.
Apparatus such as walking frames, wheelchairs, crutches and raised toilet seats are often given to patients when they leave hospital.
But some items are not returned when they are no longer needed – costing NHS Highland money.
Depending on the model, some wheelchairs can cost up to £3,000. The other items would have cost around £3,400 to buy as new. A pair of crutches costs upwards of £20 and a walking frame from £30.
An NHS Highland spokeswoman said: “We do appreciate it when patients return equipment such as walking frames, wheelchairs and crutches that they no longer need.
“The majority of equipment can be refurbished by NHS Highland and given to other patients to use which does save us money.
“We would urge anyone who no longer needs such equipment to return it to us.”
The return of equipment is just one area where the board hopes to save money before the end of the year. It has been dogged by financial problems for several years and last year needed a £2.5 million loan from the Scottish Government.
But it recently emerged that NHS Highland had been underfunded by several million pounds a year through the use of a formula to calculate its funding.
NHS Highland’s finance director Nick Kenton told the board yesterday that he is predicting an overspend of £8.2m unless savings are made.
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