Patients urged to help cut medicine wastage

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MEDICINE wastage caused by patient ‘stockpiling’ and unnecessary prescriptions is placing a heavy financial burden on health services and affecting patient wellbeing, a local pharmacist fears.

Beacon Medical Practice pharmacist Joan Spencer has been concerned for some time about the amount of medication that can be issued to patients and fears that much of it is overused, while other prescriptions are not taken by the patient at all.

She has devised a scheme to reduce medicine waste locally by surveying patients on their usage and advising them on better pharmaceutical practices.

She said: “The practice doesn’t know all the answers and it could be that we find something specific to the Skegness surgery - the high level of disease burden, for example - or we might not! Either way, the more people who feed their views into the work, the more chance we have.”

Survey forms have already been distributed to more than 100 patients, half of whom have responded, providing valuable insight into the possible causes of medicine waste.

Several have admitted, in confidence, that they have ordered a full list of items on a complex repeat prescription, despite not needing all of them.

And members of the new Beacon Patient Participation Group, which supports Ms Spencer’s project, believe that some of the problems may be caused by patients ‘stockpiling’ their medication, due to fears they may not be able see a doctor for a repeat prescription when they need it.

Ms Spencer and the PPG believe few people are aware that medicines, once prescribed, even if unopened cannot be reused, and must be incinerated.

Group chairman Richard Enderby said: “We know there’s a problem with medical wastage, we know it’s a national problem and we know it’s happening here. The way patients call for repeat prescriptions doesn’t necessarily accord with their need - some are safeguarding themselves incase they run out and others are doing it in anticipation of potentially needing it.

“What we are trying to do is make people more aware of the problem and explain to them that it is costing a lot of money, which in these tough times could be better spent elsewhere.”

Nationally an estimated £300million is lost to medicine wastage every year, which could have been spent on other vital health services such as 11,778 additional community nurses or 80,906 extra hip replacements.

Although there are no specific figures for the costs incurred to the local health service, Ms Spencer hopes her project can reduce waste by up to a quarter.

Ms Spencer and the PPG recommend that patients to consider carefully whether they need all of the medicines on a repeat prescription, only tick the boxes for those that they do need and inform their GPs if they stop taking any medication.

l Survey forms are available from any Beacon Medical Practice reception.