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Practices encouraged to ‘do more’ to cut medicine waste

3 January 2013

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General practice staff are being urged to keep their medicine use under review in a government push to prevent NHS medicines waste.

The Department of Health report The use of medicines for better outcomes and reduced waste suggests up to 7.5m patients with long-term conditions are not taking their medicine as prescribed.

Furthermore, it is claimed improving repeat prescribing systems in GP practices and increasing repeat dispensing by community pharmacists could help reduce the amount of medicines wasted and save up to 2.7m hours of GP and practice time a year.

The report was prepared in response to research into medicines waste published in 2010, which revealed £300m was wasted in 2009 – £150m of which was avoidable.

It claims “simple steps” such as encouraging patients to take their own medicines into hospital with them cuts out expensive duplication.

The report cites a new scheme at Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that saw waste slashed by 37% when they asked patients to bring in medicines from home instead of re-issuing them once they had been admitted to hospital.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust were also congratulated in the DH-led work for employing a pharmacy assistant to ensure medicines dispensed in the hospital that were not used were returned to the pharmacy.

The trust estimated savings of £450,000 could be made in a year. 

“Pharmacists, doctors and other health professionals have a vital role to play in making sure patients are fully involved in decisions about their treatment,” said Health Minister Lord Howe.

“This is so patients get the best use from their medicines, and the NHS gets the best value for every pound spent. 

“Excellent work is being carried out as pharmacists, doctors and nurses work together to cut medicines wastage. This report shows some of the innovative methods being used by NHS teams to help make better use of medicines, improve health outcomes and reduce wastage.”
The NHS Commissioning Board will now consider how best to take forward the recommendations in the report as part of its medicines optimisation work.