Help cut medicines waste

Date: 14 Oct 2015

Category: Statements

We will be highlighting the enormous cost of wasting medicine on 14 October during Bristol’s Healthy City Week (10 – 18 October) with an information stand at Bristol’s Heart Institute.

Healthy City Week 2015

Facts and figures

Patients and healthcare professionals in Bristol are being asked to help stop medicines going to waste as figures reveal at least £5 million is spent on unused medication every year in this city alone, and £300 million nationally.

As much as 10 tonnes of medicines waste is processed in Bristol each day, which is then incinerated and sent to landfill.

Medicines waste is a problem that Jenny Gibbs, Project Manager with the Medicines Management team at Bristol CCG is tacking in a new report which is due to be published on Tuesday 10 November.

Jenny explained “The financial cost is eye watering but what many people don’t realise is the impact this has on nature, wildlife and our environment. Traces of antidepressant medication have been found in blue tits because some people are tipping medicines down the drain instead of returning them to their pharmacy for safe disposal. Jenny has been working with Wessex Water to quantify the impact that medicines waste is having on the environment."

The report

The report will reveal the results of a survey she has carried out amongst 2000 people in and around the Bristol area. This highlights that many patients do not want to be given a prescription following a GP visit and would prefer an alternative to medication.

Jenny says “There is a great deal patients themselves can do and I believe that when it comes to changing the behaviours of the general public we are pushing at an open door” she said. “Our research has revealed that people hate the idea of wasting medicine at a time when NHS budgets are so tightly stretched. We will be sharing the forthcoming report with stakeholders, patient groups, pharmaceutical and medical committees to discuss possible solutions. We must all remember that there is no such thing as a free prescription. The NHS pays for it and increasingly our environment does too."

Working together

NHS organisations in Bristol are working together to improve medicines ordering and prescribing systems and are asking members of the public to help in the following 5 ways:

  • Take your medicines exactly as your doctor advises
  • Only order what you need
  • If you’re going to hospital, take your medicines with you
  • Return unused medicines to your pharmacy
  • Don’t flush medicines down the toilet

How you can reduce medicine waste

Research shows that between 30 and 50% of prescribed medicines are not taken as recommended, and ten days after starting a new medicine, 30% of patients have either stopped taking their medication or are no longer taking it as prescribed.

"Medicines waste can quite literally mean money down the drain and is enormously costly in both financial and environmental terms. We are working hard to ensure that NHS systems are reviewed and updated to minimise waste wherever possible and are asking the public to help us. Making sure you only order what you need, or taking medication you already have with you to hospital can make a real difference to cutting waste. Safety is paramount, so when you no longer need medicines please return them to your pharmacist so they can be safely disposed of. Never flush them down the toilet or throw them in the bin. "

- Dr Martin Jones, Chair of NHS Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group

Bristol Heart Institute