‘Retail’ scheme to provide disability aids launched in London

A government-backed programme to roll out a “retail model” of community equipment provision was launched across London yesterday, after evidence that its pilot areas had improved people’s lives and saved money.

Early adopters of the Transforming Community Equipment Services project believe they are saving between £20 and £25 per person in the provision of some aids. The money is reinvested in adult social care services.

Under the programme, which was launched to all 32 London boroughs yesterday (Thursday, 4 March), service users are given prescriptions to exchange for equipment at shops run by companies or charities.

Until now, local authorities and NHS partners have provided equipment directly through their own stores.

The London scheme is restricted to simple daily living aids, but this will be extended to more complex pieces of kit. Capital Ambition, a coalition of London councils that drives efficiency savings, has provided £1.9m for the roll-out.

The programme is already operating in 11 NHS and local authority partnerships in parts of the north west and south west England, but this is the first regional roll-out. Last year more than 91,000 prescriptions were issued.

Havering Council in east London adopted the programme early. Assistant director for commissioning Joe Coogan told guests at yesterday’s launch that previously it would have cost Havering £38 to deliver a simple piece of equipment, such as a bed board, whereas the market model costs were between £13 and £14 a person.

Coogan said savings had to be made. “Our budgets are likely to go down over the coming years and needs will go up,” he said. These savings are being reinvested into areas such as telecare and reablement, he added.

The programme is expected to bring in combined savings of £12.3m over two years in London’s 32 boroughs and will be introduced in four waves from April.

Ian Winter, the Department of Health’s deputy regional director for social care and partnerships in London, said the programme had to be adopted for several reasons: budget cuts, the ageing population and the fact that services were failing to meet the needs of the whole population.

He said: “It’s all about making it more available to people and their carers, on the one hand, and, on the other, it’s freeing up the rather complex resources and the systems that we use currently.”

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