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Making a Difference for Specials Recycling

Medequip clinical team members at The OT Show 2022

Fiona Wasdell-Bowyer is Head of Clinical Services and Designated Safeguarding Lead for Medequip. She has over two decades of experience as an occupational therapist, and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Occupation Therapy. Here, Fiona discusses how the clinical services team she heads up is making a real difference for our community equipment services contracts around the UK.

What made you decide to join Medequip?

For me, it’s always been about the personalisation agenda. Helping people in maintaining independence is my passion, and the developing world of community equipment and technology enabled care is opening up a world of new opportunities. During my career, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in many different areas of social care, including OT, Telecare and Sensory services, Independent Living Centres and being a clinical lead for transforming community equipment services. The role at Medequip gave me an exciting opportunity to join as head of clinical services at the beginning of their journey, building on a strong foundation and growing the team.

How has the work of the OT team developed?

When I joined, Medequip employed three occupational therapists. We now have eleven OTs, each linked to individual contracts across ten depots. We are always striving to put the person at the centre of everything we do – it’s all about the individual people and getting them the right equipment at the right time. Having clinical staff working in our depots means we can achieve this better, more quickly and more efficiently, making real improvements for people and for our commissioners, maximising time and money.

'They have saved the service thousands of pounds by acting as that professional link between a provider and the clinicians within the commissioned services.' (NHS Commissioner)

How is the clinical team making a difference for Medequip contracts?

One of our primary focus areas has been to improve the management of ‘specials’, a term that defines all non-standard stock and includes many complex and bespoke pieces of equipment. We play an important role in choosing the right equipment to put in the catalogue, and supporting decisions around buying new specials, optimising budgets. Our clinicians all have a wealth of experience, and they are frequently asked for advice from prescribers in the community. Then it’s all about making sure the contracts don’t have expensive recycled special equipment sitting around “gathering dust”, but rather making the most of it. We aim to identify any new orders where there is an alternative option available using the recycled specials. The clinicians also understand which equipment to prioritise for repair then reuse, matching it to individuals’ needs and getting it back out there, working for people, using our clinical knowledge to support the whole process.

Our results are speaking for themselves.

Depots with an OT are now recycling an average of 60% more special bespoke equipment than depots without an OT. The higher the recycled percentage, the more the contracts are saving. Over the past six months across just seven depots, we’ve saved an estimated £3.25m by successfully recycling and reusing specials, providing a huge benefit for the contracts and demonstrating clear evidence of the developing impact of Medequip’s clinical team.

It’s not just a financial benefit. There are clear advantages for the people who use our services, who get the equipment they need without a long wait for availability. Also in terms of the time saved for OTs in social care and NHS finding the ‘special’ they need more quickly. In addition, there are sustainability benefits too with the lower environmental impact of having more products manufactured and shipped.

'They have been innovative in their approach at trying to look at ways of improving service delivery.' (Lead Clinical Prescriber)

Where else has the clinical team been active within Medequip?

We’re involved with lots of best practice initiatives, with improved risk assessments, processes and tool kits, finding solutions and encouraging learning across our contracts to make sure we share solutions to the benefit of all. Equipment Review Groups involve joint working with procurement to bring a clinical perspective, again sharing best practice and maximising our equipment influence.

At a depot level, Medequip’s OTs are working to ensure our local staff have improved awareness of clinical perspectives, improving practices around risk management, customer services and dealing with complaints. Safeguarding has been an important focus for me too, as Designated Safeguarding Lead. We have implemented a new policy and integrated procedures right across the organisation, with local ‘champions’ in place and local contacts and guidance approved by our contracts.

We’re also training and overseeing Trusted Assessors more and more in Medequip. The role of the TA can vary across the business, but they are available as requested by prescribers to undertake an assessment of need for simple equipment in people’s homes. We have clinical input into the processes, staff training, and communication with prescribers, resulting in increased prescriber confidence and improved outcomes for people.

'They understand the challenges that clinicians have and also the logistics involved in the provision of the service and are great at mediating between the two to make sure the best service is given to the end user' (Local Authority Commissioner)

How are things looking into the future?

These are increasingly challenging times for health and social care. As a responsible provider, we consider it a vital part of our role to optimise our services and processes to maximise our contribution whilst offering value for money. They are exciting times too for Medequip, as we begin to work more closely with our partners Medequip Connect and Manage At Home in both TEC and retail.

One of the most rewarding things for me has been to see Medequip’s individual OTs working in our depots effectively coming together as a cohesive team of experienced and committed clinicians, supporting each other and their colleagues. It’s a joyful team to work with and I consider myself lucky to be part of it and able to play a role in our joint achievements.

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