Reducing waste with clever ways to reuse

Jessica Lack is a Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist with Sussex Partnership and she and her team decided to take a more sustainable approach to managing waste when some gym equipment needed to be updated to meet policy changes. We asked her to share her story…

reuse bag

What was the opportunity for change?

I work in the central therapies department at the Hellingly Centre, a medium secure forensic mental health hospital based in Hailsham, East Sussex. I’d heard about our Care Without Carbon at Sussex Partnership on our intranet, and I’d attended a wellbeing event pre-pandemic where the team had a stand to share info on what the Trust was doing to reduce its impact on the environment.”

“We have gyms on site that our service users can use, to promote physical activity. Service users are individually risk assessed by their care team to ascertain and promote engagement in physical activity before using the gyms. Our ward based gyms offer a range of cardiovascular exercise equipment and we also have a central gym which consists of weighted machines and free weights. Depending on risk of violence and aggression of our service users it may be deemed not appropriate to access free-weights/ weighted machinery depending on risk to self and others. Physical activity as a whole at the centre varies from low to high intensity dependant on a number of factors so the gym use is carefully planned and monitored.”

Hellngly Centre East Sussex, outside the building front with glass panels and signage

“We always make sure that how we use the gyms, and the equipment available is compliant with NHS guidelines and policy. Last February (2021) managing a healthy weight in secure services guidance was released as part of the physical health CQUIN. This outlined the need for secure services to have commercial standard gym equipment in situ for service users to access.  This meant that some equipment could no longer be used in our gyms. Historically equipment that could no longer be used would have been disposed of as not fit for purpose.”

“However, inspired by the Care Without Carbon programme we wanted to take a different approach. It’s a massive waste of perfectly usable equipment which we are no longer able to use in our service, but could be reused by others in different circumstances. Reuse, reduce and recycle!”

Making a positive social difference

“Keeping hold of old equipment isn’t easy, with not a lot of storage available at the Trust. And with clinical demands at an all time high we don’t have capacity as a team to organise the sale of equipment ourselves, so it was a great relief to have excellent support from the estates and facilities team, linking in with Sussex Police to arrange the sale on our behalf. Our Estates and Facilities team allocated someone to support us with getting the old gym equipment into storage off site, so that Sussex Police could co-ordinate the sale”

“A caveat of Sussex Police supporting us with this is that any revenue generated will be used to support the rehabilitation of prisoners/services which support the prevention of crime. As we directly work with individuals whom have been involved in the criminal justice system, we are able to reinvest the revenue back into our service. Several of our service users now work for Sussex Partnership as an Expert by Experience, and working collaboratively through our Working Together Group they can help us to identify projects and service development ideas.”

Doing something that matters

“The social benefit side of the revenue raised by selling the equipment is great, but it is also so good to know that we are not just throwing out something that had use elsewhere. It’s vital that the NHS tries to reduce its impact on the environment and create less waste and carbon emissions. “

“Being green(er) is a real hot topic as part of our Working Together Group and whilst our service users wish to create improved sustainability, we need to be able to enable these ideas to become reality. Only by working together we can achieve great things.

Bees gathering honey

“I would highly recommend teams consider simple changes which may have a big impact, you just need to start somewhere. If you start small and make it consistent then you’ll begin to see real change. One thing to consider, which may help is to think about what you do at home and how can we replicate these in our services/ teams? All our ideas can help us to make a difference so let’s see what we can achieve.”