RED Cross centres which provide mobility aids to elderly and disabled people across the Portsmouth area are set to be axed.
The charity has announced it is pulling out of 12 NHS health centres across Hampshire after it was charged rent for the spaces it uses.
Last year, branches of the Red Cross across the county loaned more than 11,000 pieces of equipment.
And until two years ago, local NHS clinical commissioning groups allowed the charity to operate in health centres free of charge.
Included in the 12 locations it is now set to vacate, are facilities at Portchester Health Centre, Waterlooville Health Centre, Havant Health Centre, Lee-on-the-Solent Health Centre and Gosport War Memorial Hospital.
Geoff Cheshire, head of operations for mobility aids at the Red Cross, said: ‘We are always looking at ways to improve our service and make best use of our resources. We currently lend mobility aids from 20 locations in Hampshire; some are only three miles apart. This is a very inefficient and expensive way to operate. We cannot justify this expense to either our donors, our service users in other parts of the country or other local people who need our help.
‘We have therefore given notice to leave 10 NHS properties and close the service at 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 service locations, Hampshire will have more centres than any other county in the UK.
‘Another reason for this decision is that although we receive some funding from Clinical Commission Groups to support those services located at NHS properties, the true costs of running the service are far higher.
‘We have also been receiving demands for service charges for the space we occupy in NHS properties. These charges were not budgeted for when we entered into our original arrangements. Despite our best efforts and those of our partners in the NHS, we have been unable to agree how these costs should be met.
‘As a charity we cannot remain in properties where there is a potential cost liability. We will remain operating from Fareham Health Centre because of the distance people would need to travel to alternative Red Cross locations.
‘Like any responsible organisation, we continually review the service to look at, for instance, the costs of the premises we use, if they have the right opening hours and enough volunteers. We are continually seeking to improve and make efficiencies in a fast changing environment. We are exploring other options such as online ordering, home deliveries and mobile services to specific hard-to-reach locations.’
The Red Cross says services will continue to operate from centres in Portsmouth, Fareham and on Hayling Island.