The James Paget University Hospital (JPH) in Gorleston has introduced 30 new wheelchairs featuring a supermarket-style coin system.

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A lack of wheelchairs prompted the move, with a review of provision at the Gorleston hospital carried out late last year.

It highlighted that 10 additional wheelchairs bought in autumn 2012 had all disappeared by the end of November.

From this month, the hospital is introducing the coin-slot wheelchairs.

In order to take a wheelchair people will need a pound coin - or a trolley token - that will be returned when the wheelchair is brought back.

There is both a change machine and a cash machine located in the hospital’s main entrance.

The 30 new wheelchairs - costing £500 each - will be located in the main entrance, A&E and at other key entrances.

The new wheelchairs will be phased into use over the next two weeks.

They have been bought through charitable funds.

Hospital volunteers and staff took part in reviewing three different types of wheelchairs against a range of criteria including ease of use, maintenance, infection control and health and safety.

Volunteers and staff chose a Bristol Maid wheelchair, which also came recommended by hospitals in Newcastle, as the best overall option. The chairs are made in the UK and are of a solid, welded construction.

The current, older chairs will be allocated to wards and clinical departments around the hospital.

Public governor Christine Smith said: “As governors we represent the public and we raised our concern about a lack of wheelchairs. We’re really pleased to see the hospital taking this action.

“Sadly, the chairs do seem to disappear and it’s a problem in all hospitals. We very much hope these new chairs and the coin-operated system will help make sure that the chairs stay where they should be”.

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