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Lean on me

Last week was a really proud moment to be in York; I don’t mean our fair city being the most attractive hen-do destination on Earth, but our very excellent ‘York Environment Week 2021’ which has showcased many educational and informative events to share all the green work that is going on around us.

Eco-ear to the ground as ever, I learned that a friend was planning to showcase his very impressive dripping-with-green-innovations home. So, I thought in my meandering yet well-intentioned way, if a highly skilled professional craftsman can do it, why can't a new-on-the-scene-and-solely-fuelled-by-enthusiasm greener healthcare proponent such as *blushes* myself contribute to the local festivities? I was so determined to be part of this cornucopia of carbon-consciousness, that I arranged for our city-wide group of green-minded GP surgeries to hold an equipment amnesty, where patients were invited to drop off any items no longer required, no questions asked. I’m talking about things like crutches, walking sticks, walking frames and shower seats, which the NHS spends millions on, yet only one in every five items gets returned to the NHS. Hmmm. Those aren’t great numbers are they? Well, hand-sewn thinking cap (made from non-bleached organic cotton, produced in a factory where workers are well-paid, over-18, and valued members of society) on, I’ve come up with a few reasons. Read on friends…

Firstly, it’s easy to pop these items in the loft where they are safely stowed away from being a trip hazard (erm, no need for a repeat injury, thanks very much) and forgotten about. Could it be that you're worried it's gone past the point of being able to return them without incurring tuts and exclamations as our receptionists spot you are carrying something hewn in Medieval times? Or maybe you’re generously keeping them in case a friend or family member could make use of them one day? Well folks, remember that they need to be correctly fitted to the height of the user, by a trained healthcare professional (usually one of our excellent physios or occupational therapists) to avoid upper limb or back injuries. Plus when you return them to our amnesty, they get thoroughly cleaned and repaired if needed. Hooray!

Think about all the thousands of items floating about in the community. Can you encourage others to return things they no longer need? This really is a triple win for everyone! We already know there are delivery issues across the UK right now (slow clap Grant Shapps) and our medical friends in the South West have experienced delays in accessing new equipment as a result. Well this needn’t be a problem if we reuse what’s already in the system. I feel like this is a metaphor for…everything??

Stepping around the glut of crutches in the waiting room (about £300-worth so far, and that's just in my practice!), I was reminded of how vital these bits of kit are for people with mobility issues. Potentially the difference between being stuck in a chair, sadly watching others skip past the window, and getting outside and being able to go joyfully where others go. I have recently been waxing lyrical on the benefits and joys of ‘walking meetings’, and a colleague reminded me to think about making these accessible. Quite right. What is a literal 'walk in the park' to some of us, may be painful or physically impossible for others. Many of my patients struggle with arthritis and I often see how much they absolutely rely on frames and sticks to enable them to move about safely and reduce their risk of falls. When you think about it like that, the gift of movement is really very great indeed, so if you have the power to pass on crutches to a grateful recipient, consider yourself a true Christmas elf!

And let’s face it, Christmas starts as soon as Easter is over (according to the shops *eyeroll*), doesn’t it?

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