The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has defended changes to the way in which people are issued with equipment to help them with daily living, after allegations of wastage.
A health trust employee, who did not wish to be identified, has claimed that under the new system, many items are being thrown away rather than reused.
But the trust has said the new system is the most cost-effective way of dealing with the increased demand for equipment.
Equipment for everyday living includes items that help people with restricted mobility to manage everyday tasks such as a rail by the bed or bath, walking aid, raised toilet seat or commode.
Under the old system, a central department distributed and collected the items, which were essentially loaned to patients.
But under the new system, patients themselves own many of the items and are responsible for looking after them.
A leaflet produced by the trust recommends that people “dispose of the equipment thoughtfully” when they no longer need it.
It adds, “You may also consider holding on to the item in case you need it again.
“Most or all .... will fit into your normal household waste or can be left at your local amenity centre.”
The trust’s director of older people and primary care Angela McVeigh said most equipment costs less than £20, but as it costs much more than this to transport, decontaminate, repair and re-issue those items that can be reused, people are encouraged to keep their aids for future use.
She said, “More specialised and expensive equipment like beds, mattresses, bath-lifts, hoists or pressure cushions, which can be reused, continue to be loaned from the trust.”
Mrs McVeigh said feedback on the new service has been very positive with a high percentage of clients reporting they are now satisfied or very satisfied, in a survey of the service last year.
She explained, “We have an increasing number of people living in the southern area with complex needs and we want to support them where possible to live independently in their own homes.
“Previously people had to travel to one of our central stores to collect their equipment or wait for it to be delivered to their home.
“Rather than having to come to a trust store on weekdays, we are now able to offer greater choice as to when and where they can pick up their items.
“The service is proving faster and more efficient with most equipment available on the same or next day.”