Community equipment pilot launched

The Department of Health has chosen the north west to trial a new initiative that will involve people buying community equipment such as wheelchairs and hearing aids from approved suppliers, including charities.

Councils and primary care trusts in Oldham and Cheshire have begun using a system through which people will go to accredited suppliers with free prescriptions to collect community equipment. Retailers will claim the cost back from the NHS.

The scheme is designed to give people wider choice, particularly with regards to when and where they collect equipment.

A DoH statement said: “The new system will not change the way a user or carer who needs state support is assessed. It will, however, change the way equipment is provided, with accredited retailers agreeing to stock and distribute it.

“Accredited retailers will give state-supported users the choice they have not previously enjoyed by offering to either exchange equipment for prescriptions or topping up existing prescriptions to users’ products of choice.”

The trials, described by the DoH as "shadow running", will be evaluated to determine financial benefits as well as the effects on the quality of the products.

Ivan Lewis, the minister for care services, said: “The new retail model was developed by the people who use and deliver services and has users and carers at its heart.

“It demonstrates how local government, the NHS and third-sector organisations can work with retailers to deliver personalised services more efficiently”.

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