Therapy equipment flogged at car boots warns councillor
Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter
A Flintshire councillor has raised concerns that occupational therapy equipment under public ownership is being flogged at car boot sales and charity shops.
Hope Cllr Gladys Healey told a meeting of the council’s social and health care scrutiny committee that she had seen and heard evidence of equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs and specialist toilet seats being sold on the open market.
She asked council officers representatives from the North East Wales Community Equipment Service whether they are keeping track of items distributed to help residents receiving support to stay in their own homes.
The North East Wales Community Equipment Service (NEWCES) is jointly funded by Wrexham Council, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Flintshire Council.
Flintshire is the host authority and lead partner for the service which is based in Hawarden and Queensferry, and according to a report to councillors it re-uses 93 per cent of the equipment returned.
Cllr Healey said: “When a person does not need equipment anymore how long is it before you collect it?
“It has come to my notice, quite a few things I’ve seen myself at car boot sales – high toilet seats, crutches, I’ve seen wheelchairs – I find these things are not being returned or collected.
“I know from my neighbour that her husband had a rail that was not collected for six months after his death.
“I’m not knocking you, you do a fantastic job. But I just find the timescale of collecting equipment should be more robust so these things don’t fall by the wayside, because this is eating into your budget.”
Janet Bellis, senior manager for integrated services, said equipment can only be collected when the service is informed it is no longer needed.
She said: “Our equipment store can only collect things if they’re told they’re no longer required.
“I think sometimes for families who have just experienced a loss the idea of getting in touch with the equipment store is one step too far very early on in bereavement.
“Sometimes I think that’s the issue – our equipment store colleagues just aren’t informed they’re there ready to collect.
“I don’t know how to comment on seeing them in car boot sales and charity shops, that’s just ridiculous.”
Councillors were told that equipment is marked up with a code and it was understood an ‘amnesty’ is in place with charity shops so equipment that does end up with them is collected back ‘no questions asked’.
A collection amnesty has also been held in the past to enable people still with equipment in their possession to return it.
Argoed and New Brighton Cllr Hilary McGuill (Lib Dem) said she and other councillors had a number of residents that had been kept waiting “weeks and weeks and weeks” for equipment and asked about waiting lists, suggesting equipment be distributed in an emergency ahead of a full assessment afterwards.
But officers explained that thorough assessments need to be carried out first, not just of the individual but their home set-up too – to be sure of exactly what their needs are.
Ms Bellis added that there was a danger equipment which would be wrong for the client or not right for their home could be given out without a proper assessment taking place first.
Councillors noted the update on the authority’s occupational therapy services.
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