Physio-led project to reuse walking aids shortlisted for HSJ award

A Welsh physiotherapy service’s initiative to reuse walking aids, which saved some £40,000 last year, has been shortlisted for a national award.

Cardiff and Vale saved about £40,000 last year by reusing walking aids

The innovative project from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s physiotherapy service has been shortlisted in the workforce efficiency category of the HSJ Value Awards.

Faced with increasing budgetary pressures, population growth and an associated increase in demand for walking aids, the physio staff responded by expanding opportunities for walking aids to be refurbished.

This has meant that, rather than gathering dust in garages and attics, walking aids that are no longer needed can be reused and the money saved can be invested in patient care.

Initially, refurbishment of the aids was increased on-site. But this required the time of healthcare support workers. To limit the clinical impact, the physiotherapy staff formed a partnership with the Probation Service. Under the agreement, offenders sentenced to unpaid work by the courts are using their ‘pay back’ time to refurbish walking aids for the NHS.

Posters displayed in a range of public places, including clinics, hospital departments and GP surgeries are helping to raise awareness about the need to return equipment and explain how to do this.

Of the range of equipment returned – largely frames, crutches and wheeled walkers – more than 70 per cent has been made ready for reuse.

Patients in the spotlight

Sue Rees, deputy head of physiotherapy services for Cardiff and Vale, told Frontline it was not just a financial issue, it was very important to patients.

‘Helping people to gain or regain their mobility is important to restoring independence.  It also keeps people from being admitted or gets them home from hospital.  Access to walking aids when needed is essential and refurbishment and reusing them makes them more readily accessible.
‘Offenders have found this to be a meaningful activity and the hope is that it will help to reduce their future offending behaviour.  One offender didn’t want his sentence to end because he felt he was doing something that really made a difference.’

Fiona Jenkins, executive director for therapies and health sciences at Cardiff and Vale, said: ‘It’s a great recognition for the health board’s physiotherapy service that they have been shortlisted for the HSJ Value Awards.

‘Their scheme related to walking aids demonstrated their innovation in identifying where a better service could be provided using less resource: a truly patient-centred, prudent approach.

‘I wish them the very best of luck and am incredibly proud of the whole team for putting Cardiff and Vale on the national stage with leading NHS organisations from across the UK.’

The physios will have to wait until the award event in Manchester on 23 May to discover whether they have won.

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