It would cost more for Lancashire County Council to reuse special assistance equipment – provided to support vulnerable people in their own homes – than it does to write off its cost when it is no longer needed.
The authority’s health scrutiny committee was told that the price of decontaminating some of the items would be prohibitive and cost more in the long run than allowing them to be thrown away.
The equipment includes items such as commodes and raised toilet seats, but also less sensitive home help kit such as stools and grab rails.
Individuals are being encouraged to donate appropriate items to charity or pass them to other family members who might be in need, rather than disposing of them.
Committee member and Wyre borough councillor Julie Robinson said that she was regularly approached by people asking what they should do with redundant equipment.
“I know some items can’t be cleaned, but there are a majority that could be utilised again – we seem to live in a throwaway society,” Coun Robinson said.
Lancashire County Council spends just over £2m a year on so-called “retail model” equipment which is issued via special prescriptions and supplied by specialist stockists. It is designed to help keep people independent at home for as long as possible.
The committee heard that people receiving the equipment are informed that it belongs to them – and not the county council or the NHS – when they are first given it.
“We recommend that people consider how they may want to recycle some of their equipment,” said Sue Lott, Lancashire County Council’s adult social care operations manager.
“Some of the charities and voluntary organisations will take retail model equipment – but we don’t have any specific service in place for returning and recycling [it].”
Val Knight, the authority’s occupational therapy manager, added: “If a piece of equipment costs, say, £20, [but] by the time you’ve decontaminated and recycled it costs £70, then you [have to] weigh up [the benefits of recycling].”
Members were told that more specialist equipment, such as hoists, is given out on loan and always collected for reuse.