Wales is set to become the first country in the UK to introduce national minimum standards for the provision of community equipment service.
The move would put equipment for older and disabled people, including grab rails, pressure relieving mattresses and hoists, on a par with services such as residential care in being formally assessed by inspectors.
Currently, equipment services in Wales are jointly commissioned by local authority and NHS partnerships and typically provided by in-house “stores”.
A Welsh government spokesperson said standards would be developed in the next year, before being submitted to ministers.
Review by ex-Welsh official
The government’s decision follows an independent report published this year by its former national development officer for equipment services, Brian Donnelly. This argued strongly for the introduction of minimum standards in England and Wales.
Donnelly, now a consultant, said there was a raft of legal and welfare requirements governing equipment, but few measures to ensure compliance and no system for inspecting service quality.
He claimed commissioners were not adequately monitoring the quality or safety of equipment, despite the huge potential costs of failings, including more hospital admissions and higher risk of entry into residential care.
Donnelly calculated that if 1% of the 10 million pieces of equipment issued each year in England and Wales were not delivered correctly or at all, it would cost the economies £5.5bn.
A DH spokesperson said it had no plans to introduce minimum standards in England though the issue would be kept under review.
“There is already a range of legal and regulatory requirements governing the provision of community equipment, including health and safety legislation, medical devices regulation and consumer protection legislation,” she said. “These are explicit duties.”