Dr Nick Tupper blog: £2m wasted on unwanted medicine

nicktupperHow many of us feel annoyed when we have to throw away food that has passed its use-by date, simply because we have bought too much or have forgotten that it’s there tucked away in our fridge?

We can all be guilty of stockpiling items we think we might need in the future or because something is a good deal or free. But I think it’s fair to say none of us like waste and it’s a particular problem for the NHS when it comes to medicines.

The Department of Health calculate unused medicines cost the NHS around £300 million each year, with an estimated £110, million worth being returned to pharmacies, £90 million worth being stored in home and £50 million being disposed by care homes. In Doncaster, the CCG reckons that around £2million worth of medicines are being wasted each year because some patients on repeat prescriptions are storing more than they need.

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.

We’re going to launch a new awareness campaign to encourage Doncaster people to ‘show the red card’ to medicines waste by telling their GP practice or pharmacist that they are being prescribed than they need.

Are you one of those patients? Do you feel awkward about telling your GP or pharmacist you’re being prescribed than you need because you think your prescriptions may stop as a result? That won’t happen, but I am interested in finding out why medicines build-up in people’s homes so we can make it easy for them to let the NHS know when it’s becoming a problem.

By cutting out around £2 million of medicine waste in Doncaster and investing the savings in other parts of our local NHS we could afford hundreds more hip or knee replacements, more than 2,000 more cataract operations and many new nurses. It’s something we can all – patients and health professionals – work together on to stop unnecessary waste and make better use of NHS resources.

Together we can save the NHS in Doncaster up to £40,000 a week without affecting patient care.

So please:

  • Only order the medication you need
  • Discuss your medicine needs with your GP or pharmacist
  • Take your medicines with you if you go to hospital
  • Return unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/doncwaste 

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