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A new lease of life for NHS wheelchairs

I read with interest this week that NHS wheelchairs that have been retired are about to get a new ease of life thanks to Her Majesty’s Prison service in Maghaberry in Northern Ireland which now has a wheelchair workshop.

The NHS retires many wheelchairs each month deeming them obsolete for various reasons, many of which are fairly minor like stained or ripped upholstery. Most of the wheelchairs are fit for upcycling and are taken to Maghaberry where they receive whatever is needed to get them ready for a new lease of life in another country.

Charities including Mediaid4kids, Bike Aid for Africa, Tell Romania and Faith in Action Missions all need wheelchairs for countries that are in conflict and do nothave enough mobility equipment to go around.

Wheelchair workshop at Maghaberry

The NHS tend to buy wheelchair models that are renowned for reliable low maintenance operation, however every wheelchair has its limits and too often they are treated roughly and not cared for by staff and patients who use them for short periods only. Both self propelled and transit wheelchairs are then retired and sent to the wheelchair workshop where prisoners are trained to carry out the maintenance. They work from a checklist to ensure they meet health and safety guidelines.

A wheelchair is typically steam washed then stripped them back, rebuilt and fully restored with some even getting a new paint job ! Once signed off as fit for service the wheelchairs are packed and put in shipping containers ready to be transported to one of the foreign countries in need.

In the wheelchair workshop up to a dozen prisoners use basic tools to carry out the maintenance.
Governor Davis added: “There’s a lot of good work done by the prisoners in the wheelchair workshop. The work is both educational and therapeutic for prisoners and helps build on rehabilitation and preventing re-offending, which will ultimately help in the future to make our communities safer.

“We’ve had quite a number of letters back from individuals and hospitals on the other side of the world and for staff and prisoners it makes them realise how much their work really is appreciated.”

The work by prisoners in the wheelchair workshop is tremendous and has given hope to people in areas of the world where they believed there was none.

During a recent trip to Libya I witnessed first-hand the real need for wheelchairs and walking aids.

The people who receive them are very, very grateful and always ask me to pass on their gratitude to the Governor, prison staff and the men who have provided the wheelchairs for them.

– Robert Jones, Chairman of Medaid4Kids