Cheaper to throw away zimmerframes than dispose of them in Havering

It costs Havering’s health services more to clean and re-use walking aids, like zimmerframes, than it does to buy new ones, leading some patients unable to dispose of them.

Diane Parker, 68, of South Hornchurch, contacted the Recorder after having treatment at King George’s Hospital, Goodmayes, which left her with several metal medical aids including a zimmerframe.

Her mother Lillian James, 98, from Rainham, has also had treatment at St George’s Hospital, Hornchurch, and been given walking aids.

Diane said: “When you’re in hospital like I have been for a knee replacement or when your parent has mobility aids like crutches, no-one wants to take them back afterwards.

“They were recommended through my doctor but they don’t take them back because of the cost of disposing of them.

“I don’t understand how it can be done like this – it seems to be going along with everything else in our throwaway world.

“Where are we supposed to take them? If you haven’t got a car what do you do with them?”

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Cllr Jeff Tucker (Independent Residents’ Group, Rainham and Wennington) added: “We’re always being told to recycle bottles and everything else, yet people can’t recycle these. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment here.”

A spokesman for Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT), which runs King George and Queen’s hospitals, said: “We are happy to give advice to any of our patients who no longer need their equipment about what to do with it, but we are unable to reuse them, as this would cost more in cleaning and checking safety and suitability than giving the next patient a brand new one.”

A spokesman for the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), which runs St George’s Hospital, said: “Walking aids such as crutches usually have internal stress fractures after they are used by patients, so it would not be safe to give them to other patients, as directed by the Department of Health.

“It is cheaper to issue patients with new walking aids than to recycle them and make sure they are infection free. This ensures effective use of public money for our patients.

“When patients let us know they would like to return their walking aids, we do collect them where possible.”