A crutch amnesty has been declared as part of plans to reduce the carbon footprint of the NHS.
Walking aids littering living rooms across the country should be returned to hospitals and reused instead of ending up in landfill, Health Minister Steve Barclay said.
NHS staff are being urged to accept unwanted medical equipment and rehome or recycle them where possible.
“There are some great examples of hospitals already reusing vital medical equipment – such as wheelchairs and walking aids – and we want to see more of this across the country,” Mr Barclay said.
“In too many instances however medical equipment is being used once and then thrown away at a time when the public is increasingly aware of the impact of waste on the environment.
“Patients should be able to return the countless pairs of perfectly good crutches sitting unused in the corner of living rooms across the country and know they will be put to good use helping others, either in the NHS or elsewhere through charity donations.
“It is not only the kind of creativity and common sense the public wants to see from the NHS, but will also help ensure equipment is used in an environmentally friendly way and that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely, a crucial part of our long-term plan for the NHS.”
It is hoped an increase in the reuse of hospital equipment will also save the NHS tens of thousands of pounds.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Patients are often bewildered that the NHS does not ask for equipment back when they have finished using it, and sometimes even find that the NHS can make it bafflingly hard when they try to return it.
“This can raise questions in people’s minds about the efficiency of the NHS, and even undermine confidence in it – all completely needlessly.
“We’d like to see an NHS where patients are able to return equipment that is no longer needed, and where equipment will be sensibly recycled and reused when it can be.”
Existing initiatives include one at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, where returned walking frames and crutches are decontaminated, and reused or recycled.
One in five (21%) pairs of crutches and 61% of frames were returned last year at the NHS trust, the Department of Health and Social Care said, saving £25,000.
The call for a crutch amnesty comes ahead of the first Green GB week, led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which aims to raise awareness of how climate change can be tackled by the public and businesses.