Dr David Crichton blog: Returned: £3,000 worth of medicine

DSC_0597Prescription medicines do a great job in helping people stay well or get better after an illness. But they need to be valued and monitored carefully.

In Doncaster, the NHS currently spends around £60 million a year on funding prescription medicines, many of which are prescribed to patients who are on repeat orders because they have long term health issues.

Earlier this year, we launched in partnership with local pharmacists and Doncaster Rovers’ player Andy Butler, a public awareness campaign to ‘show the red card’ to medicines waste. There’s a simple message behind the campaign: only order the medicine you need. But if it does start to pile up, please tell your GP, pharmacist or ring our Medline on 01302 566074 to get the problem sorted.

It’s as easy as that.

We need patients and carers to help us. We reckon that around £2 million of NHS money is wasted every year in Doncaster on routinely re-ordered prescription medicines that are not used. This is at a time when the NHS is really having to tighten its financial belt and make every pound count.

It’s money that could be spent on caring for patients, rather than literally being thrown away. Because what many patients don’t realise is that even if you never open them, dispensed medicines cannot be recycled or prescribed to anyone else, they have to be destroyed.

The problem was highlighted recently when a large amount of unused medication, with a value of more than £3,000, was returned to a pharmacy in Armthorpe. It included over 200 inhalers and was uncovered after the patient moved from their home into supported care.

Pharmacist Marie Boardman is pictured with some of the returned, unopened medication, some of which was dispensed more than six years ago.

This is not an isolated case. Large quantities of unused medication are often returned to Doncaster pharmacies for safe disposal, which is the correct method to follow.

But what we want to do is avoid the medication building up and getting out of control in the first place. This is where you can really help your NHS.

If you are concerned about any aspects of your medication – including that it may be piling up – you can ask your pharmacist for a review. This can easily be carried out at your pharmacy by simply arranging an appointment and is worth doing every year.

Cutting out around £2 million of medicine waste in Doncaster and investing the savings in other parts of the local NHS would, for example, pay for hundreds more hip or knee replacements, over 2,000 cataract operations and many new front line staff.

So as we move into the Euro 2016 competition in France, our local ‘goal’ is to save up £40,000 a week on unnecessary medicine waste and we can do so without having any impact on patient care. That’s the kind of a tonic the NHS needs.

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