Two hospitals on Teesside are appealing for the return of hundreds of pairs of missing crutches.
Some crutches turn up at car boot sales, said the trust
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust said it has been unable to provide some injured patients with the medical aids because of the shortage.
Former patients who forget to return crutches are the main culprits, according to the trust.
A spokeswoman said the problem is costing about £50,000 a year at the Hartlepool and Stockton sites.
'Can't be bothered'
Anyone who wants to return crutches to either hospital can do so without fear of punishment, said Alex Thomas, an Accident and Emergency consultant at the trust.
She said: "Sometimes people can't be bothered bringing them back, especially if they missed their last appointment and would have to make an extra trip to the hospital.
"We know that people often find their crutches years after recovering from injuries. Some even turn up at car boot sales.
"We're ordering about 100 pairs a month, but there was a day last week when we had no crutches at the North Tees site and were forced to send people home without."
All crutches returned will be received with no questions asked, she added.