Durham & Darlington Launch Contact & Connect to Support Community Loan Equipment Returns

 Addressing the Green Agenda, Reducing their Carbon Footprint & Saving Money 

Getting loaned equipment back into the system when you have multiple hospitals, hundreds of prescribers, thousands of patients and a vast geographic area is challenging. With the NHS aiming both to be carbon neutral by 2040 and reuse at least 40% of their walking aids by 2025, driving behaviour change with service users is critical. 

After a number of months of scripting, data identification, data cleansing, information governance wrangling and aligning all parts of the project, this week Durham & Darlington went live with Contact&Connect to drive community equipment returns, by automating calls and texts to service users on a regular basis. 

The calls are only two minutes long and ask key questions around equipment to ensure the service user has all the equipment they need, that nothing is broken, reminding them that it is loaned equipment and – when they are ready to return it – proactively making contact and organising the collection. 

Durham & Darlington have worked hard to align all partners, ensure they understand why the business process change needs to happen and that everyone is able to promote the new automated approach to service users. With automated call response rates in other areas as high 65%, expectations are set that Contact&Connect will not only bring more equipment back into the system, but find service users who may need a little more support, as well as identifying people who no longer have their equipment for some reason. 

Durham & Darlington have set out success measures including: 

  • Increase the rate of items returned  
  • Increase the refurbishment and recycling rate  
  • Decrease spend for new purchases 
  • Reduction in crisis/emergency intervention from community teams 
  • Reduction in emergency/same day deliveries 
  • Improved record keeping and traceability of equipment
  • Overall improvement of the Community Equipment Service for the benefit of service users and commissioners

A recent NHS Supply Chain report identified that over 449,000 pairs of crutches, 171,000 zimmer frames and 123,000 aluminium walking sticks are bought by the NHS every year. In fact across just 66 NHS Trusts over £14m was spent in 2019 alone on 560,000 walking aids. Not only is the cost of this unsustainable, but the carbon footprint to manufacture the items is huge; 5.7kt of CO2e was generated to purchase these walking aids alone – with manufacture of the items being the environmental biggest issue. 

So Durham and Darlington – and the other areas we are working with – are actively using Contact&Connect to address this challenge, bringing back in equipment for reuse, recycling and harvesting, which will contribute to their Green Plan delivery and lower append for new items in the process.