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Call to action for GPs to help reduce medicines waste across Lambeth


Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is launching a new campaign to reduce medicines waste within the borough, which costs CCGs across south London around £9 million every year.   

“Every year, medicines waste places a huge financial burden on CCGs; money that could be used to fund vital NHS services” explains Vanessa Burgesss, Assistant Director for Medicines Optimisation and Long Term Conditions at Lambeth CCG.

 “For example, £9 million would pay for over 230 nurses or around 100 hospital doctors for a year.  Alternatively, it could fund 1,500 hip replacements, 12,600 hospital stays or talking therapies for over 22,500 people with mental health problems.” 

“By working together to reduce medicines waste in Lambeth and supporting the ‘It’s OK to Ask’ campaign, we can make a huge difference to health outcomes across the borough.”

A particular concern at present is the increase in prescriptions of medicines that can easily be bought over the counter at a much lower cost, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and antihistamines.  It’s estimated that nationally, over 22 million prescriptions were written out for paracetamol in 2015 at a cost of £80 million to the NHS – up to five times the cost of their high street retail price .

“We’re asking GPs and pharmacists across Lambeth to help reduce medicines waste by talking to patients about their medication, particularly those on long-term medication who may be experiencing issues or concerns” continues Vanessa Burgess.

“Evaluation from a similar campaign we ran across Lambeth  in 2015 showed that many patients lacked confidence in asking their GP or pharmacist for advice if they were concerned about side effects from their medication or if they felt their medication wasn’t working.  They felt that they would be wasting their clinician’s time.”    

“Appointment time is precious, but by identifying particular patient groups and asking a few quick questions, you could identify an issue that could be easily resolved. “

We’re also asking GPs to think about prescribing for medication that could be bought over the counter.  We know that there are many cases where this is the best option for the patient and their health outcomes.  However, keeping these prescriptions for those in genuine need will help to significantly reduce the cost to the NHS.”

The ‘It’s OK to Ask’ campaign will be running across Lambeth  from mid-September until November 2016.