Equipment ban could put patients at risk

VULNERABLE patients across Somerset could be left without vital equipment because district nurses are not able to use a local

VULNERABLE patients across Somerset could be left without vital equipment because district nurses are not able to use a local charity's equipment.Nurses from Axbridge and Wedmore GP practices used to borrow aids including defibrillators, commodes, urine bottles and walking sticks, from the Community Health Fund, which raises cash for the medical centres and hospices in the area.The equipment was kept at the surgeries for use by the staff when and where needed.But a Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) policy has ruled nurses must now use the Medequip centre in Bridgwater, which supplies nurses across the county with disability equipment and home living aids.Medical staff say the new policy is putting patients at risk due to longer waiting lists for equipment.District nurses tend to the housebound, terminally ill and patients who need extra care after leaving hospital, meaning some of the most poorly residents could be left without the equipment they need to make day-to-day living more comfortable.A nurse from Cheddar Medical Centre, in Roynon Way, said: "At the moment we can only order equipment for five days ahead, so a patient could be waiting without treatment. "We order equipment for people who are experiencing a decline in mobility or terminally ill patients, so it's easier to plan what they will need and order it in advance because you know what is going to happen. "Everything is more difficult now though and there is potential for patients having to wait for equipment they urgently need."Members of the Wedmore and Axbridge Community Health Fund, who work hard all year to secure funds and put on events to raise money, are also frustrated at the policy.Secretary Shirley Wederell said: "All the nurses are struggling now. We buy the equipment for doctors, nurses and carers to use when and where they need it, but the PCT has now stopped the nurses using it."It's frustrating because they have to go to Bridgwater now, where the central store is for the PCT, but there's a waiting list with hundreds of thousands of patients needing equipment from it."It makes the charity null and void because we have to look at other things to purchase."But the PCT has said the changes have been made to improve health and safety and infection control.A spokesman said: "The preferred supplier of medical equipment to NHS patients is Medequip. Somerset PCT does advise its community nursing staff to use their service in preference to any previous arrangement they may have used involving local stores of equipment. "Somerset PCT is not aware of any problems with the quality of the service provided by Medequip or patients being significantly inconvenienced by long delays with the supply of equipment."Anyone who would like to raise concerns about the changes can call the PCT's patient advice and liaison officer on 0800 0851 067.

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