A VITAL service used by hundreds of elderly and disabled people has been relaunched.

Last year a Romsey centre where families could borrow wheelchairs and other mobility aids was one of the 12 closed by the British Red Cross in a bid to save money.

Now the charity has created a mobile pop-up version to ensure that people in Romsey can continue to access the service.The same service has been launched in Totton, but the charity said it lacks the funding and manpower to launch pop-up services in other areas affected by the closures, including North Baddesley, Hythe and Ringwood.

Last year it was announced that Hampshire was losing more than half the 21 Red Cross facilities which loaned wheelchairs, crutches and walking frames.

Speaking at the time Geoff Cheshire, head of operations for mobility aids, said some of the centres were only three miles apart, adding: “This is a very inefficient and expensive way to operate. We cannot justify this expense to donors, service users and other local people who need our help.We have therefore given notice to leave 11 NHS properties and close 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, Hampshire will have more centres than any other county in the UK.”

Many of the closures were caused to the charity having to pay rent for rooms it occupied in NHS buildings.

The new pop-up services in Romsey and Totton are already up and running.

Red Cross mobility aids hub manager Aaron Stevens said: “We know what a huge difference a wheelchair can make to someone’s quality of life while they are unwell, injured or recovering.

“The pop-ups are a great way for us to cut costs while keeping the service going.”

Cllr Dorothy Baverstock, mayor of Romsey, had said to be devastated after the closure was announced. She has now said: “There’s a need for it in Romsey. I don’t think people who make decisions really understand villages need to have things like that.”

The former Red Cross centre in Greatwell Drive, Romsey, will open between 9.30am and 11.30am on Fridays.