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Only ask for what you need 

NHS Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is running a campaign, Only ask for what you need, in November and December to reduce the amount of medicines that are not used by patients. To highlight the issue posters and leaflets will be appearing in GP surgeries and pharmacies.

Across the UK, £300 million of taxpayers' money is spent every year on medicines that are not used. In south east London, we estimate the cost of medicines that are not used is around £9 million each year

Everyone can help reduce medicines waste by:

  • Checking what medicines you have already at home before you request any more. You can request more medicine at any time, but stockpiling medicines at home increases the risk for others of accidental overdose. Unused medicines cannot be recycled, even if they have never been opened.

  • Taking responsibility for asking for more of your medicines yourself. One way is by registering for GP online services. You can do this through your GP practice. You can use this to request your prescriptions online.

  • Only ticking the boxes on your repeat prescription forms for medicines you really need.

  • When you pick up your prescription from the pharmacy, checking what is in the bag, and ensuring that it is what you requested and only what you need.  You can return any unwanted medicines to the pharmacist.

  • Telling your GP or pharmacist if you have stopped taking any medicines, so they can be removed from your repeat list.

Having regular discussions with your pharmacist will mean you get the right help with taking your medicines. When you see your GP or consultant, make sure you understand any changes in your medicines, and what each medicine is for and why you are taking it, and how to take it properly.

Di Aitken, GP and NHS Lambeth CCG Governing Body Member said: "We really want to make an impact in reducing the amount of unused medicines we waste. It is an issue where patients, GPs, pharmacists and hospitals can all contribute.

"We are encouraging GPs and pharmacies to work together to review their repeat prescription systems. This is so that any changes to prescriptions can be made quickly.

"We know some people do like to have a spare stock of medicines 'just in case' but we recommend only having a maximum of one months' supply at home. We really want patients to order only those medicines that they need and avoid stockpiling where possible. This is because national research estimates that £90million worth of unused prescription medicines are retained in individuals' homes."

Dilip Joshi, Superintendent Pharmacist, Chairman, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Local Pharmaceutical Committee added: "Unwanted dispensed medicines returned to the pharmacy once taken away cannot be reused, even if they are new, due to safety issues. Please check that the medicines you are having dispensed are needed and inform pharmacy staff if you no longer use them or already have enough. If you find one or more medicines are unwanted after they have been dispensed, please return them before leaving the pharmacy. Otherwise, they cannot be reused."

"If any patient is unsure about their medicines they should talk to their pharmacist or GP practice."

To find out more, go to Only ask for what you need