A local fortnightly newspaper set up only three months ago in Dartmoor has seen its first front page exclusive become a national investigation that has reached the health secretary.
The Moorlander broke the story of NHS waste in Exeter last month, running pictures of piles of discarded crutches and walkers that it said had been deemed unfit for use despite many being brand new.
Editor and founder Stuart Clarke, a former Fleet street photographer who has covered conflicts abroad, said the story came from a tip-off that led him to take a photograph of the “sea of NHS waste”.
He added: “I held on to it but then thought it’s quite an interesting story and started talking with local doctors and healthcare workers and they said this is obscene and shocking so we decided to run with it.
“But there is only about four or five of us and we don’t have the resources to carry out an investigation country-wide.”
Clarke said he phoned a contact at the Mail on Sunday and showed him the documents and evidence gathered by The Moorlander.
“They said they wanted to go with it,” he said. “They had people going up and down the country doing it.”
A double-page spread into how the “NHS is wasting millions of poinds each year by needlessly scrapping vital medical equipment that could be reused” ran in the MoS two weeks later, with some of Clarke’s photos.
In a follow-up report, the MoS published a page lead that said health secretary Jeremy Hunt had “vowed to take action on over the mountain of NHS equipment being thrown away across the country”.
Clarke said: “I have been around long enough to know this was a runner. We are very proud that we brought this to people’s attention, especially at a time when the NHS is going through a massive shortfall in money. I think we did the right thing selling it on.”
“It isn’t just a local story, it’s a country-wide story. It affects everyone who has broken a leg or has ageing mum. People think this stuff is going back and is reused but a lot of it is just scrapped. There’s no guideline or overall government policy on this, which I think is shocking.”