Hundreds of thousands of pounds wasted in north Norfolk due to medicine wastage
- Credit: Archant
Hundreds of thousands of pounds is being wasted in north Norfolk by patients stockpiling unused prescription medicines.
Holt Medical Practice said unused medicines from its patients alone cost about £15,000 a month, or £180,000 a year.
It has issued an urgent plea to patients to only order what they need, and has called on people to let their doctor know if they stop taking their medication.
Nationally, more than £300m of the £13.8bn spent on prescribed medicines each year is wasted.
The lost money could fund an extra 11,700 community nurses across the UK.
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Holt practice business manager Andrew Wilkinson, based at Kelling Hospital, said most of the patients at the surgery qualified for free prescriptions due to their age.
Mr Wilkinson said the idea was sparked by the county-wide medicines waste campaign last autumn, which showed £4.9m of unused prescriptions were wasted in Norfolk.
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He said: 'One of the main problems is that some patients on repeat prescriptions order more than they need, stockpile their medicines and return them to us when they are out of date.
'Many of the medicines are unused and in their original packaging.'
Mr Wilkinson added that once a medicine had left the pharmacy, it could not be reused, even if it had been unopened, and was classed as clinical waste.
He added: 'The medicine waste figure is a very conservative estimate because we only see what is returned and not what has been disposed of via other means.'
In a bid to highlight the scale of the problem, two bath tubs have been filled with unused medicines and fake bank notes and displayed at the practice and its pharmacy - which is one of the biggest dispensing centres in the UK.
The display, a joint project between the surgery and volunteers from its patient group, price tags the true cost to the NHS.
Maggie Prior, chairman of the Holt Area Practice Group, said people had been shocked to see the amount of unused medicines being wasted.
She added: 'We're urging people to think about what they need, encouraging them to speak to their GP for advice - and telling them not to be worried to speak up if they're not using their full prescription.'
The second part of the Holt campaign will see members of the patient group urging people to return all unused and unwanted medicines as these were also a safety risk.
The Holt display is also likely to be used in other surgeries in north Norfolk seeking to reinforce the message.
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