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Plea to cut Norfolk's medicine waste

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 January 2010 | UPDATED: 09:56 01 July 2010

Dan Grimmer

Patients are being urged to help the county's health service save money in 2010 by cutting waste and not ordering medication they do not need.

Wasted medication is costing the local NHS more than £5m every year and NHS Norfolk wants to cut back on the extra costs next year.

Patients are being urged to help the county's health service save money in 2010 by cutting waste and not ordering medication they do not need.

Wasted medication is costing the local NHS more than £5m every year and NHS Norfolk wants to cut back on the extra costs next year.

Much of the waste is thought to be the result of people using repeat prescriptions to re-order medication they don't currently need and which they end up returning for disposal.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the amount wasted was “staggering”.

“We need a much more effective strategy to cut down on waste,” he said. “There needs to be a thorough review to ensure prescriptions and drugs are not just been thrown away.

“Every pound spent on drugs that are not used is money that could be going into patient care. We have patients refused drugs by the primary care trust yet so much money is being wasted on drugs.”

Earlier this month NHS Norfolk revealed it was facing a £6m deficit by the end of the financial year if spending continued in the same way. Bosses said increased patient pressure means they have to look at ways of making savings.

The £5m of wasted medication could pay for other vital health services including 1,000 more hip replacements, 700 more heart by-pass operations, 7,000 cataract operations or 900 more knee replacements.

John Reuben, NHS Norfolk's prescribing advisor, explained that once dispensed, unwanted or unused medications cannot be recycled, they must be disposed of.

He said: “It is important that patients continue to take the medication their doctors have prescribed, and have sufficient to meet their regular needs, however, when reordering, we would ask them to check what they have in stock. It is important to remember that they only have to order what they need and not necessarily everything that is listed on their repeat prescription.

“NHS Norfolk has produced posters and leaflets to highlight this issue, which have been put on display at GP surgeries and pharmacies across the county.”

The £5m of wasted medicine comes from a total medicines budget for NHS Norfolk of about £118m per year. The waste represents about 4pc the budget and Norfolk patients throw away about £1 in every £23 that is spent on prescribed medicines.

Patients are also warned that, in addition to the economic issues, hording medication can be a danger, for example, if it is used after its expiry date.

Do you have a health story for the Evening News? Call Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email sarah.hall2@archant.co.uk.

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