More than 1,000 mobility aids handed out in the Borders have not been returned, leaving their providers £34,000 out of pocket.
That figure, revealed under freedom-of-information laws, has prompted Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership to launch an amnesty to encourage people to return unused equipment so it can benefit others.
The partnership, together Scottish Borders Council-owned social care provider SB Cares, is asking Borders residents to search their homes and those of relatives for any pieces of kit supplied by NHS Borders or the council such as walking aids and frames, bathing aids, hoists, bath lifts or adapted chairs that are no longer required.
Other items wanted back include height-adjustable seating systems, shower stools, commodes, bed-rails and wheelchairs.
Once returned, they will be assessed by SB Cares’ Tweedbank-based community equipment service and, if possible, recycled and reissued.
Sandra Pratt, the partnership’s interim chief officer for health and social care integration, said: “Being able to recycle equipment in this way is a sensible and efficient way for us to respond to the needs of our clients and patients, and I would encourage everyone to play their part and get in touch with SB Cares so that we can arrange for items to be returned.”
SB Cares managing director Philip Barr added: “Our team do everything they can to ensure that unused items are returned to us, but this is an opportunity for the community to help us to help others.
“Every item of equipment we receive will be assessed and, wherever possible, put back into use to help someone else stay able, supported and independent.”
Items can be dropped off at the service’s unit at Tweedbank Industrial Estate from 9am to 5pm on Mondays to Thursdays and 9am to 3.45pm on Fridays. Collection can also be arranged. For details, call 0300 100 1800 or visit www.sbcares.co.uk
That amnesty has been welcomed by Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.
Mrs Hamilton said: “I support the Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership amnesty on care equipment. It is sensible and the correct course of action.
“The current trend highlights that more and more people are not returning walking aids, and NHS Borders is having to spend thousands of pounds replacing them.
“This is money that could be spent elsewhere.
“Those who no longer require their walking aids need to return them.
“These can be reused and can save NHS Borders thousands of pounds in doing so.”
A freedom-of-information request earlier this year revealed that 1,047 walking aids, worth £34,210 altogether, were identified as irrecoverable over the last five years.
The number of such aids going missing increased from 155, worth £5,246, in 2013 to 273, valued at £9,317, in 2016.
That means that more than a quarter of money spent on walking aids last year went on gear that would be never be returned, up from 20.5% the year before and 16% in 2013.