Supply chain pressures are leading to a shortage of vital equipment such as mobility and toilet aids, patient lifts and hospital beds that help vulnerable people in Devon to live independently in the House.
The continued high levels of coronavirus cases around the world have caused disruptions in outbound supplies, especially from Asia, where many items of independent living equipment are manufactured and shipped.
The world’s third and fifth largest ports in China were under COVID-19 lockdown in June, and global economists predict that persistent constraints on major shipping routes – which cause delays of four to six weeks – will continue into 2022.
Additionally, recent lockdowns and risks from COVID-19 mean manufacturing plants are working on reduced capacity, increasing supplier lead times on many equipment lines.
The combination of issues means community equipment stocks in Devon stores are low for some items of independent living equipment, including four-wheel walkers and raised toilet seats, and Devon County Council and the NHS Devon CCG are acting now to mitigate the risk of backorders.
“We deliberately increased our stocks last year, but conditions are very difficult right now,” said Glen Baxter, of Millbrook Heathcare Ltd, which provides community amenities to people on behalf of the Devon County Council and the NHS Devon CCG.
With no sign that the situation will improve soon, Millbrook Healthcare Ltd, Devon County Council and the NHS Devon CCG are calling for an ‘equipment amnesty’, calling on people who no longer need their community equipment to make it free.
Authorities carried out the amnesty for the first time last year, resulting in hundreds of items being returned, refurbished, sterilized and reused in the community.
“We were delighted with the response last year,” said Glen Baxter of Millbrook. “Because we were able to put items back into circulation that were no longer in use, we were able to continue to deliver the vital equipment people needed on time. We want to do the same thing again now.
Supply pressures are affecting the availability of four-wheeled walkers and toiletries, particularly in Devon. Other equipment used in large numbers includes hospital beds, clinical mattresses, pressure cushions and patient lifts.
However, wheelchairs are not part of the amnesty, as they are not provided by the community equipment service provided by Millbrook.
Collection of equipment from people’s homes is free and Millbrook staff will collect items from the property.
The amnesty will run from Monday 9 to Monday 30 August. People should call 0330 124 8214 to arrange a collection.
“Our drivers will do their best, but we will need to prioritize the collections based on the items most in demand and the staff pressures created by the pandemic. We thank people in advance for their understanding and patience, and assure people that we will be in touch to organize the collection of their items over the next few weeks.
Councilor James McInnes, a member of the Devon County Council cabinet responsible for social care and adult health, said:
“We were pleasantly surprised at the level of response we received to last year’s amnesty, with hundreds of items, if not more, collected from the homes of the people of Devon. We hope to achieve this again as we encounter these issues in the supply chain, but there are also good environmental reasons why we want to reuse equipment where we can. If the equipment amnesty is successful, we will consider whether to hold it regularly as a matter of routine. “
Millbrook Healthcare Ltd already operates a reuse service throughout the year, collecting higher value items and equipment that people can leave at council-run household waste recycling centers to be collected by Millbrook. What can be reused is refurbished and put back into the system, and items which cannot because they do not meet UK safety standards are recycled or donated to charities as a help to abroad.