A VITAL service used by hundreds of elderly and disabled people has been restored in two Hampshire towns.

Last year 12 centres where families could borrow wheelchairs and other mobility aids were closed by the British Red Cross in a bid to save money.

Now managers have created a mobile pop-up version so people in Romsey and Totton can continue to access the service.

But the charity says it lacks the funding and manpower to launch similar services in other areas affected by the closures, including Hythe, Ringwood and North Baddesley.

Four months ago it was revealed that Hampshire was losing more than half the 21 Red Cross facilities which loaned wheelchairs, crutches and walking frames.

It followed a decision by NHS Property Services, which sought to raise vital income by charging the Red Cross for using NHS buildings.

Speaking at the time Geoff Cheshire, the charity's head of operations for mobility aids, said some of the centres were only three miles apart, adding: “This is a very inefficient and expensive way to operate.

“We have therefore given notice to leave 11 NHS properties and close one Red Cross centre in Hampshire.

“This will allow us to continue providing vital mobility aids from nine Red Cross buildings across the county. Even with nine, Hampshire will have more centres than any other county in the UK.”

The new pop-up services in Romsey and Totton are already up and running.

Red Cross mobility aids hub manager Aaron Stevens said: “We know what a huge difference a wheelchair can make to someone’s quality of life while they are unwell, injured or recovering. The pop-ups are a great way for us to cut costs while keeping the service going.”

The news was welcomed by Totton councillor David Harrison, who launched a campaign to save the original service.

He said: "I totally understand why the Red Cross wasn't able to pay commercial rates to operate from buildings. The most important thing is that residents in Totton and Romsey will now be able to easily access the service.

"I would like to thank everyone who signed the petition and supported the campaign."

People needing to borrow mobility aids can visit the car park at the former Red Cross centre in Greatwell Drive, Romsey, between 9.30am and 11.30am on Fridays and the Testvale car park in Testwood Lane, Totton, between 9.30am and 11.30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Totton also boasts a Friday home delivery service which is available by appointment. Call 0300 456 1914 to make a booking.


t: 023 8042 4503

e: chris.yandell@