Patients who fail to return crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs are costing the NHS millions of pounds every year, figures suggest.
More than £14m was spent on nearly 560,000 walking aids since January 2014 by 66 trusts in England.
Of those trusts with relevant data, 67,491 aids were returned by patients, while nearly four times that number (241,779) went missing.
Slightly more than 3,000 were returned in such a poor condition that they had to be scrapped, according to freedom of information requests.
Nearly four in every five of such loaned equipment was never given back, the data obtained by the Press Association showed.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association charity, said patients are often bewildered that the NHS does not ask for equipment back when they have finished using it, and sometimes find that the NHS can make it hard when they try to return it.
“We’d like to see an NHS where patients are able to return equipment that is no longer needed, and where equipment will be sensibly recycled and reused when it can be,” she stated.
While some hospitals requested patients brought walking aids back, others said the cost of cleaning and maintaining crutches meant there was no value in reusing them.
Many hospitals contacted by the Press Association said they did nothing to track down where equipment was.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Far too often, medical equipment like wheelchairs and walking sticks are being used once before ending up on a landfill. As we announced earlier this year, we want to put a stop to this unacceptably wasteful practice.”