Wasted NHS medicines cost £1.5m a year in Portsmouth

From left, Amy Ward, Nicola Burns, Zoe Roseblade, Nicole Horan and Natalie Dane at Lalys Pharmacy, Kingston Road, Portsmouth, with returned and wasted medicines. Picture: Allan Hutchings (143090-533)
From left, Amy Ward, Nicola Burns, Zoe Roseblade, Nicole Horan and Natalie Dane at Lalys Pharmacy, Kingston Road, Portsmouth, with returned and wasted medicines. Picture: Allan Hutchings (143090-533)

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A STAGGERING £1.5m of wasted medicine is thrown away in the Portsmouth area every year, The News can reveal.

Health officials say the problem is largely due to patients with long-term conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure over-ordering medicine.

Doctors not checking whether a prescription has changed also results in medicine being produced that is then not used.

Under NHS safety rules, once a prescription has been taken out of a pharmacy it cannot be resold or reused, even it is returned unopened.

Instead it is incinerated.

Local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said wastage amounts to £1.5m a year in the Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport and south-east Hampshire area, and £9m in Hampshire.

Nationally it is estimated that £1 in every £50 spent in the NHS is wasted on medicine that is unused.

Now calls are being made for patients to only order medicine they need and for GPs to review prescriptions more regularly.

Katie Hovenden, medicine management lead for the three CCGs that buy in health services, said: ‘Medicine that cannot be resold will be incinerated, so that money is definitely lost.

‘We know we can never completely get rid of it but we could cut this by 50 per cent.

‘Both patients and health professionals can help reduce this wastage by checking the prescriptions and only ordering what’s needed.

‘There will always be some amount of waste, if someone dies, or if a prescription changes through a course of medicine, but there are also areas that can be improved.’

One doctor says the money wasted could be spent elsewhere.

Dr Kawai Mo is the prescribing lead for a group of GP practices called the Portsdown Practice Group.

He said: ‘In Hampshire about £9m is wasted on unused medicine.

‘That’s about the same as 600 breast cancer treatments, 2,500 hip replacements and about 10,000 cataract operations.

‘GPs need to make sure they are reviewing patient medicine on a regular basis to make sure their prescription is up to date.’

Pharmacist Baldev Laly owns the Laly chain of pharmacies.

Mr Laly said: ‘We need to educate people to make sure they only order what is needed, to check their prescription hasn’t changed and to let us know if it has.

‘But I would like to add that if medicine has been taken home and isn’t needed any more, then please bring it back to a pharmacy as it could be unsafe in the wrong hands.’

To read The News’ view on this click here.