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Help Us to Help You campaign being backed by The Gazette
PATIENTS who waste medicine are costing the local NHS more than £1million each year.
Thousands of litres of medicines are returned to Basingstoke community pharmacies every month – much of which is unopened.
Now, North Hampshire Clinical Com-missioning Group (CCG) is highlighting the issue, which it is trying to tackle as part of the Help Us to Help You campaign, supported by The Gazette.
Alma Kilgarriff, lead pharmacist at the CCG, said there is no overriding reason why medicines are wasted and returned.
She said: “The causes of waste are many and complex, but around half of all returns are unopened packets.”
The cost to the local NHS is enormous. Last year, the CCG spent £26m on drugs and of this, £700,000 was wasted on prescribed medicines that were never taken – a figure which doesn’t include the cost of collection and destruction.
Mrs Kilgarriff said: “The true cost will be over £1m when prescribing costs are factored in, plus the purchasing time and then dispensing and disposing costs.
“Quite often, our GPs, nurses and carers visit patients and see unopened medicines – box after box of prescribed medicines that have never been opened or used.”
These prescriptions, though unused, cannot be given to other patients, and Mrs Kilgarriff added that it is likely much more medicine ends up in patients’ bins.
Each month, 2,400 litres of wasted medicines are collected from community pharmacies in Basingstoke.
Audits of medicines returned to pharmacies identify various reasons from side-effects to doctors changing treatments or doses, to patients simply not wanting to take them any more. It’s estimated that at least half of this waste could be avoided.
Piles of medicines are also often recovered from the home of a deceased patient.
Mrs Kilgarriff said: “We know that 50 per cent of patients don’t take their medicines properly. This can be forgetfulness or complacency.
“We have examples of patients with repeat prescriptions who just keep on collecting them even if they’re no longer taking them. They just pile up unopened.”
In an effort to reduce medicine wastage, the CCG is working closely with community pharmacies and is planning a series of talks to various community groups in and around Basingstoke to provide better information about medicine waste.
Lisa Briggs, chief operating officer of the CCG, said “We need to work with patients and the public to make sure they have the right information and support in order to make the best decisions about their own health care. Stopping waste is hugely important to us.”
Sarah Billington, chief officer of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Pharmaceu-ticals Committee, said: “Pharmacies do offer much more than over-the-counter services.
“We can help patients with advice on how and when to take medication by phone, or face-to-face in a private consultation room at the pharmacy. If patients feel concerned and don’t want to bother their GP, we can work with them.”
Mrs Kilgarriff said: “We are already working hard to reduce waste by asking GPs to look at what’s prescribed and why. We are examining the repeat prescription system to prevent over ordering.
“But we need patients to work with us and help us. If they don’t want, or no longer need, their medications, we need to know.”
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