08 Aug 2018

NHS St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has joined forces with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to encourage local residents to make the most of their local chemist by visiting for advice about health issues, reducing the amount of medicines waste and registering for the NHS minor ailments scheme.

Passengers travelling to and from non-urgent healthcare appointments with NWAS’ Patient Transport Service (PTS) will be handed a Care at the Chemist leaflet, as well a leaflet containing tips to avoid ordering too much prescription medication.

The leaflet distribution is part of an ongoing scheme launched by NWAS in October 2017 aimed at making the most of the 1.5 million patient journeys undertaken by PTS each year across the North West region, by taking the opportunity to share information about various important health topics.

Approx. 1 million pounds worth of prescription medicines are wasted across St Helens every year. However, with just a third of unused medication returned to pharmacies for disposal, NHS St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group’s Head of Medicines Management, Nicola Cartwright, said this is just the tip of the iceberg.

She said: “Many of us will have heard stories about people who have medicine cabinets stocked full of unused prescription medication.

“But it is no exaggeration to say that the money wasted on unused prescription medicines could instead be spent on improving other important areas of health and care in St Helens and treating those in most need.

“The last thing we would want is for anyone to think that they suddenly need to stop taking their prescription medication. But we would urge the people of St Helens to check what they have at home before they re-order and think carefully before ticking all the boxes on their repeat prescription form.

“We would also ask people to take their medicines as prescribed, to check what’s in their prescription bag before they leave the pharmacy and regularly review whether they still need a repeat prescription with their pharmacist or GP.”

Nationally, unused medicines cost the NHS an estimated £300 million a year. This sum could pay for more than 11,000 community nurses or 300,000 drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s.

Repeat prescriptions, in particular, can contribute to medicines waste in a number of ways, including:

  • Medicines that are not required are requested by the patient or the person that orders for the patient
  • Patients stockpile medication “just in case”
  • Patients tick every box on their prescription slip without checking what they have at home

Even if prescription medicines once dispensed to the patient are unopened, they cannot be recycled or used by anyone else once they have left a community pharmacy – they have to be destroyed.

It is estimated that the borough of St Helens could save approx. £1million per year if people were to only get the medicines they need from the pharmacy.

How can you help?

  • Make sure you only get a repeat prescription for what you need
  • If you get something in your bag at the pharmacy counter that you don’t need, tell the pharmacist right away before you leave
  • Talk to your GP about your repeat prescription and let them know if you aren’t using them anymore.

Working with the local Patient Transport Service means that more residents in St Helens can be directly targeted with these messages than ever before.

Nathan Hearn, PTS Contract Delivery Manager, said “The nature of our service means we spend time with many different patients every day. We recognised that, by joining forces with local health services, we could make even better use of that time by helping to share important health messages and information about locally available services.”

PTS crews handing out health information leaflets is just one of a number of service improvements currently being made across NWAS, as part of the Transforming Patient Care programme. The programme has already seen the introduction of a number of initiatives to improve care for patients, by supporting them in the right way as early on in their NHS experiences as possible.