NHS Campaign To Reduce Medical Waste

15 April 2011, 14:42 | Updated: 15 April 2011, 14:45

A campaign aimed at reducing an estimated £3.5 million a year wasted on medicines has been launched today (Friday April 15th) by the NHS in Luton and Bedfordshire.

The campaign aims to raise awareness about correctly ordering repeat prescriptions and helping people get the best from their medicines.

The money wasted on medicines across Luton and Bedfordshire, could pay for:

137 more community nurses, or
943 more hip replacements, or
425 more heart by-pass operations, or
230 more drug treatment courses for breast cancer, or
3,500 more drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s.

GPs and pharmacists across Luton and Bedfordshire have joined together in a bid to help patients and their carers understand more about their medicines and the options they have.

One of the main concerns is medicines on repeat prescriptions, which are ordered and collected by patients but are not used. It is estimated that £90 million worth of unused prescription medicines are retained in individuals’ homes, across England, at any one time2. 

The campaign to reduce the waste will consist of bus and rail advertising together with posters and leaflets that will be displayed in pharmacies and GP practices. Further information may also be found on a new national website www.medicinewaste.com

Richard Jones, Head of Medicines Management at NHS Luton, said: “Unused medicines kept at home are a safety risk for children and others who might take them. Having unused medicines also often means that patients are not getting the benefit they could be from their medicines.

“It also represents a large amount of waste - an estimated £3.5 million in Luton and Bedfordshire every year. Even if you never open them, once medicines have left the pharmacy they cannot be recycled or used by anyone else and must be destroyed.

“We want patients on repeat prescriptions to think about what they are ordering and to only ask for what they need and are running out of. We certainly do not want patients to stop taking medicines that their doctors have prescribed, but we would like them to check what they have in their cupboards before ordering all the items on their repeat prescriptions.

“To help patients get the best from their medicines, they should ask their pharmacist for advice.”

Dr Manraj Barhey, local GP and Clinical Leadership Executive Chair at NHS Luton, said: “If anyone has any unused medicines at home we're encouraging them to take them back to the pharmacy for safe disposal and have a chat with the pharmacist or prescribing GP about their medicines on how to use them more effectively."

The campaign will encourage patients to have regular reviews of their medicines with their pharmacist or prescribing doctor to discuss any issues they may have with taking their medication.

Anyone with unwanted medicines can return them to their local pharmacy where they will be disposed of safely.