Wasted medicines cost local NHS tens of thousands of pounds a month

NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is urging patients to only order the prescribed medication they need, as a new picture emerges of the scale of waste in our area.

Medication that’s returned to a pharmacy has to be destroyed. It cannot be given to another patient, even if that medication is unopened.

A snapshot taken at JG Squire Ltd in Falsgrave Road, a typical Scarborough pharmacy, puts the issue of medicine waste into sharp focus, with the cost of returned medication in just a single week adding up to an estimated £400. As well as the cost of the drugs themselves, there are other costs to the NHS, including GP Practice prescribing time, the pharmacist’s time in the dispensing process and the costs associated with disposal.

There are 26 pharmacies in the Scarborough and Ryedale area covered by the CCG, meaning wasted medicines could be sapping hundreds of thousands of pounds every year from the local NHS budget – money that could be spent on other local health services.

Pharmacist Andrew Squire is supportive of the CCG’s campaign to encourage patients to only order the medication they need. He said: “We often see instances where a patient’s prescription may have changed or is no longer needed and a stockpile of unopened medicine is returned to us – in some cases there could be enough medication to have lasted that person six months.

“Unfortunately, even if medication is returned to us unopened, it still has to be destroyed; it cannot be reused for another patient.”

As part of the push to reduce the amount of waste medicines, there have been recent changes to the way repeat prescriptions can be ordered in Scarborough and Ryedale. It means the patient or carer now has to order repeat prescriptions from their pharmacy or GP themselves, by signing and dating the repeat prescription slip before dropping it into their GP practice or pharmacy. Patients or carers can also order repeat medications through their GP practice website, or by telephone if those options are available.

Dr Greg Black, family GP and Prescribing Lead for the Scarborough and Ryedale CCG, said: “Many residents have a ‘repeat prescription’, meaning they receive a regular medication without needing to see their doctor each time they need more.

“We would like patients and carers to only order medicine when it’s needed and only when they have between 10 and 14 days of medication left. We’re asking patients to check their stocks of medication at home before they order a repeat prescription and if they feel they no longer need a particular type of medication, they should speak to their GP practice, or pharmacy.”

The annual cost to the NHS of prescriptions that are wasted or unused is an eye-watering £300 million. The Scarborough and Ryedale CCG is in the early stages of a local campaign aimed at cutting the amount of medicines that are wasted.

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