Patients are being urged to help give the NHS a shot in the arm by saving £500,000 wasted each year through ditched drugs.
The cash is squandered in Sunderland on medications each year, leading NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to launch a campaign calling on people to take simple steps to save vital funds.
By reducing the amount of medicines being wasted each year, we could increase the available funding for other desperately needed health services.Dr Jackie Gillespie
Health chiefs say the money lost is the equivalent of 135 hip replacements, 20 more community nurses or 500 rounds of medication for Alzheimer’s patients.
The team says patients often receive medicines they then do not take, or use occasionally, and while some take home prescription and then return some unopened for safe disposal, they cannot be used by anyone else and must be destroyed.
The Department of Health states they cannot be reissued to other patients, while the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Code of Ethics for Pharmacists sets out how medicines returned to a pharmacy from a patient’s home, a nursing or residential home must not be supplied to anyone else.
This is because once medicines have left the pharmacy, storage conditions cannot be guaranteed.
Some drugs are sensitive to heat, light or moisture and can become less effective if not stored properly and it is not possible to guarantee the quality of medicines simply on sight.
Medications wasted include painkillers, inhalers, creams, and common treatments for conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes.
Other items commonly returned are wound dressings, cartons of sip feeds and catheters.
Dr Jackie Gillespie, prescribing lead for Sunderland CCG, is leading the appeal with the message “prescriptions ordered in haste, can cause waste”.
She said: “By reducing the amount of medicines being wasted each year, we could increase the available funding for other desperately needed health services.
“Many items are returned unopened but they cannot be used. “However, if you check at the counter before you leave the pharmacy and hand back any unwanted items, then they will not go to waste.
“If you order repeat prescriptions then please only order what you need and if you have any worries about your medication, discuss it with your GP or your pharmacist.
“Take your medicines if you can, tell us if you can’t.”
Patients are being advised to only order the medicines needed, to check medicines before leaving the pharmacy and speak to a doctor, pharmacist or nurse if concerned.
They are warned drugs which are binned could run the risk of being found by children or ingested by wildlife and should not be put down the sink or toilet as the substances could enter the water supply.
Patients who experience side effects or allergic reactions where they are unable to continue with the medication are also asked to return them to a pharmacy, while those on antibiotics should always complete the course.