Monthly Archives: January 2015

Wasted medicines ‘like pouring money down the drain’

Savings can help front-line services, say CCGs

Unused prescription medicines are costing the NHS in the East Berkshire area up to £1.8m every year – and now local patients are being urged to help their doctors, nurses and pharmacists to cut down on this expensive waste.

NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Slough, Windsor, Ascot & Maidenhead and Bracknell & Ascot say that even small changes can make a big difference – with the savings available for investment into more care and front-line services.

Tim Langran, CCG Lead Pharmacist, explained: “The vast majority of people don’t wilfully waste their medicines. There are many reasons why patients end up with too many stacked in their bathroom cabinet – perhaps they have forgotten to take them, have given up because they feel well again, have had side-effects or genuinely don’t understand the benefits of the medication they have been prescribed.

“It is important for your doctor, nurse and pharmacist to know if you stop taking a medication – not just to prevent waste, but also so that they can safely treat you in future and so they can give you all the information you need to make the right decision for you about your treatment. They may be able to advise on lifestyle changes you could try instead of medication or find a different medication that suits you better. They would like to know about any medicines that you are no longer taking to make sure that you are getting the best out of your care.

“That’s why it’s essential to have good, open communications between healthcare professionals and patients, and if patients don’t understand about their medicines they should not hesitate to ask.”

It is estimated that waste prescription medicines cost each of the three local CCGs between £550,000 and £600,000 a year – money that could be spent on much-needed services such as more than 4,000 cataract operations, over 300 drug treatments for breast cancer and around 600 heart operations.

Overall, wasted medicines cost the NHS more than £300m a year.

Tim added: “Wasting medicines is like pouring money down the drain – and we all have a responsibility to make even small changes so that valuable savings can be used for more of the front-line services needed across our community.

“Understandably, some people can be confused by what they should be taking and when – and just give up. We need to make sure that everyone understands fully what their prescription medicines are for and how and when to take them.”

There are many reasons for prescription medicines being wasted but the most common are:

  • patients get better
  • side effects mean a different medicine is needed
  • patients go into hospital but continue to get medications delivered to their home
  • the ‘repeat prescription’ process fails, e.g. a new supply is ordered when it is not needed
  • patients don’t take the right amounts
  • medicines have a short shelf life
  • patients don’t like to ‘upset’ their doctor by revealing they don’t take their medicines for a variety of reasons

Around 50% of medicine waste is preventable and patients can make a difference by:

  • only ordering the medicines they need
  • always following the advice on the label
  • letting their GP or pharmacist know if they no longer take the prescribed medicine
  • helping older family members or friends to order and take the correct doses of their medicines
  • checking all dispensed prescriptions before leaving the pharmacy – even unopened medicines cannot be reused once they have left the premises

NHS professionals are helping to cut prescription medication waste by ensuring that they are:

  • giving patients clear and simple information about how and when to take their medicine
  • making sure patients know how to order repeat prescriptions
  • arranging blister packs/dosettes if appropriate

All unused medicines should be returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal – they should never be flushed down the toilet or thrown in the household rubbish bin.

Make simple swaps to reduce your children’s sugar intake

It’s surprising how much sugar there is in some of the things we give our children throughout the day – from breakfast cereals and drinks, to snacks and puddings.

But too much sugar means extra calories that cause fat to build up which is is bad for their health and their teeth.

So now is a good time to join the Change4Life Sugar Swaps campaign which has four simple swaps to choose from to encourage your family cut back on sugar – and help prevent serious illnesses in later life.

Four simple Sugar Swaps:

  • Drinks swap: Swap fizzy and sugary drinks to water, lower-fat milks, sugar free, no added sugar or diet drinks
  • Breakfast swap: Swap sugary cereal to plain cereal such as plain porridge, plain wholewheat biscuits or plain shredded whole grain
  • After school snack swap: Swap sugary snacks such as muffins, cakes, croissants or pastries, biscuits, chocolate, cereal bars, sugary breakfast cereal, puddings and sweets to fruit (fresh or tinned in juice), fruit salad (fresh or tinned in juice), cut up vegetables such as carrot or cucumber sticks, plain rice cakes, toast or bagel with low-fat spreads or reduced fat hummus, plain wholewheat biscuits, breakfast cereals, plain unsalted nuts or fruited tea cake
  • Pudding swap: Swap chilled desserts, puddings, cakes, ice cream or yoghurt to fruit/fruit salad (fresh or tinned in juice), low-fat, lower sugar yoghurt or sugar-free jelly

Advice for parents

By the time they leave primary school, one in three children across the country are carrying excess weight. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, go onto experience weight and health problems in adolescence, and are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

Eating foods high in sugar can also lead to tooth decay.

  • Take time to explain to your children that too much sugar is bad for their health and for their teeth. Get them to choose which sugar swaps they want to make. Help them to keep track of their sugar swaps and see how many they can make in a week
  • Be a role-model. Children will copy you so if they see you eating and drinking healthier things they will too
  • You do the shopping and decide what they have but give them some choice by offering options for healthier alternatives so they feel involved
  • When you are shopping look at the nutritional colour-coded front-of-pack labels and go for more greens and ambers and fewer reds

Sign up to Sugar Swaps

All you need to do is sign up to make at least one easy swap to cut back on sugar – like swapping sugary drinks for water, lower-fat milks or sugar free, diet, no added sugar drinks.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive a fantastic Sugar Swaps pack with ideas for how to cut back on sugar plus money-off vouchers, swap cards, stickers and emails and texts packed with recipes and ideas to help you make healthier changes (subject to availability).

Your free pack contains inspiration, hints, tips and recipe ideas to help you and your family reduce your daily sugar intake at key points in the day such as breakfast, puddings, drinks and after school snacks.

To sign up to Sugar Swaps, visit and register for your free pack which will be sent to you in the post.

Sugar Swaps