Walking sticks being used to train sweet peas and zimmer frames doubling as clothes horses have been uncovered by Bradford physiotherapists hunting missing equipment.

And a scheme to make sure more loaned hospital equipment is returned is expected to save almost £10,000 a year.

Physiotherapy manager Jill Gregson said the department at Bradford Royal Infirmary lent out about 100 walking sticks a month and up to 40 pairs of crutches to people with broken legs or bad sprains.

Many of the people borrowing equipment had come through the hospital's accident and emergency department, said Mrs Gregson.

And staff had been told that sticks were used to train plants, walking frames made clothes horses in some homes - and hospital sticks, crutches and walking frames regularly appeared on stage in amateur dramatic productions.

So few pieces of equipment were coming back that drastic action was needed.

"We had an updated computer system so we identified all the equipment with special markers to introduce a recall system through the computer. Patients then had to sign for their equipment.

"By signing and knowing they were on a recall, it concentrated their minds and alerted them to the fact of how much they did cost," said Mrs Gregson.

"We monitored it in the first six months. I would have expected to spend £5,000 on replacement equipment and only had to put in orders for £500."

All cash saved can be spent within the physiotherapy department, either on equipment which staff would not have been able to afford or on staffing costs.

Walking frames cost nearly £20 each, with elbow crutches priced at about £11, and Mrs Gregson said equipment could be collected from the homes of people who were unable to return it to hospital.

The physiotherapy service at Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke's Hospital sees about 25,000 new patients a year - with many returning for more treatment there.

e-mail: jan.winter@bradford.newsquest.co.uk.

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