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Crutches bill is now crippling the HSE

MILLIONS of euro could be saved every year if people were forced to hand back their used crutches, walking aides and other appliances to the HSE.

Just 57pc of the aids and appliances distributed to patients are recycled -- even though their value is set at around €40m annually.

Expenditure on crutches alone is estimated to be in the region of €500,000 per annum, and €1.1m per annum in relation to walking aids and accessories.

The HSE prescribes and distributes 200,000 aids and appliances to patients every year.

The body told Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O'Donovan that it community aids and appliances have been recycled "where it is economically viable".

Information supplied to the Deputy stated that a variety of crutches are purchased, and the majority are a low-cost item with an approximate cost of €9 per aluminium pair.

There has previously been no national position in relation to recycling low-value aids and appliances -- however this issue is being addressed as part of the new aids and appliances contract and notice, according to the HSE. The kind of equipment that has been recycled up to now includes bath lifts, beds, chairs, commodes, hoists and wheelchairs.

The HSE said that it is "continuously accessing areas where better value can be achieved and currently recycle aids and appliances to the value of €23m approximately".