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Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 2009 July 1; 59(564): 542.
PMCID: PMC2702023

Waste in the NHS

In January I had the misfortune to sustain a supra-condylar fracture of my femur. Initial pain and subsequent immobility have given me rather too much time to reflect! This reflection was even more poignant as the accident coincided with the escalation of ‘co-lateral’ casualties in Gaza.

I had almost instant relief from pain by the expert administration of nitrous oxide by efficient paramedics. X-rays were prompt and access to theatre, though a little delayed, was managed without causing any distress on my part.

So what has this to do with waste? My splint was redundant after no more than 5 weeks. It was a splendid affair, not too heavy but reinforced with steel rods and padded with foam, held in place with yards of very wide high quality Velcro® and buckles. Using what I considered to be common sense I took it back to the fracture clinic only to be told that it was unwanted; I could bin it or they would! Home it came, daily glaring dolefully at me from a corner of the hallway.

As a result of this and with the help of Médecins Sans Frontières I tracked down a charity that collects unwanted, but not always unused, medical equipment of any kind; old journals and textbooks but not pharmaceuticals. This is sorted and dispatched mainly to sub-Saharan Africa, but wherever the need is identified, at no cost to the donors or recipients. (The legal requirement is for the charity to provide donors with a transfer of ownership certificate).

In the first 18 months of the establishment of this resource between £70 000 and £100 000 worth of equipment has been distributed, and none of it salvageable by the NHS according to its current guidelines.

If you can encourage local colleagues to join you in this ‘recycling’ project please contact Human Resource International on 0161 225 0225.

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners