wasting prescription medicine

How You Can Play Your Part In Reducing East Berkshire’s Wasted Medication Bill

East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Service, along with Bracknell and Ascot, and Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead CCGs are calling upon patients across East Berkshire to consider the amount of medication they are currently getting through NHS prescriptions.

At present, the county is currently wasting around £1.8 million a year on prescription medication that is not being used. It is estimated that around 50% of wasted medication could be prevented, generating annual savings of between £550,000 and £600,000 if patients were to request prescriptions for the right amount of medicine.

These savings could fund an extra 600 heart operations or provide breast cancer drug treatment for more than 300 people a year.

The waste is being apportioned to patients not fully understanding the true cost and processes involved in the dispensation of medicine. Once medicine has been issued to a patient, it is for their use alone – it cannot be returned and should never be given to anybody else. As a result, if too much medication is issued and never used, the only option is to throw it away once it reaches its expiration date.

Currently, those aged over 60 or patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, are entitled to free prescriptions.

According to the CCGs, less of a problem is willful wastefulness, as they acknowledge that some of the reasons accounting for the problem are the result of factors beyond a patient’s control, common among the groups of people who are entitled to free prescriptions. Some simply forget to take their medication, others experience side effects and have to cease taking it, and in some cases, it fails to work completely.

However, CCGs throughout East Berkshire are calling for a revised approach to patient’s perceptions of prescription medication to ensure waste is kept to a minimum. One suggested solution has been to start encouraging patients to buy their own medicines, so they get an idea of the costs involved. Local GPs also need to consider how and when they prescribe medication, and to encourage patients to self-care wherever possible.

If you’re a patient that regularly requires prescription medication, you can assist in the following ways:

  • Pay close attention to your medication and only order the amount you need.
  • Read the labels and advice carefully on any medication you receive and make a note of the expiration date.
  • Let your GP know if you are have stopped taking the medication, if it’s having no effect, or causing you side effects.

CCGs are keen to emphasise that this new approach will benefit patients by freeing up vital resources and channeling funding into providing front line services, currently required across the communities of East Berkshire.

If you need to access a GP out of hours in East Berkshire, click here.