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Published on 12 April 2011

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Nurses call to slash drug waste

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Millions of pounds of NHS money is wasted on unused medicines which are “stockpiled” in people’s homes, nurses have said.

Black bin liners full of unopened boxes have been found while medicines are also thrown down the toilet or put in the bin.

Nurses attending the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) conference in Liverpool voted overwhelmingly in favour of calling for action to stop medicines being repeatedly ordered on prescription that are never taken.

It comes as RCN chief executive, Dr Peter Carter, called on the Government to take action over proposed job cuts and instead look at other ways of saving the NHS money.

Community nurse Christine Thomas, from Swansea in Wales, proposed the motion calling for action and said millions could be saved if people followed simple instructions.

A leaflet could be posted to “every household in the UK” telling patients not to order drugs they do not need.

They could also be warned off stockpiling medicines, which can quickly go out of date or be mistakenly taken by children.

She added: “Why do people order things like aspirin when you can order 100 for less than £1, paracetamol at three packs for £1 or ibuprofen at two packs for £1?

“Would people still ask for them if they had to pay?”

Last November, a report commissioned by the Department of Health found that unused prescription medicines was costing the NHS at least £300 million a year in England, although this was likely to be an underestimate.

It found around half the waste associated with drugs that were prescribed but never taken was preventable.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“I am a hospital pharmacist and during my 15 years of being a
pharmacist, wastage of medicines due to hoarding and unnecessary ordering of repeat scripts, has been on the top of my action list.

“We all need to wake up and start educating patients about the real costs of medicines, as the majority think that they are free to order, even when not needed.”

Soha Saba, Alexandra Hospital

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