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Cricket Green GP practice staff

​Lynn Ellwood, Sedina Agama and Gill Frost

​​Cricket Green Medical Practice wins hamper for best medicines waste campaign display​​

It is estimated that in Merton over £1 million of NHS money is lost each year through medicines waste alone.​This could be spent instead on

  • 33 more district nurses; or
  • 270 more hip replacements; or
  • 28 more community physiotherapists; or
  • 23 more dementia nurses.​

With this in mind,  NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Group launched a poster campaign this summer to reduce the amount of wasted medication in the area by asking patients to:

  • order only what they need
  • return unwanted medicines to their pharmacy for safe disposal
  • take medicines with them when they go into hospital

 Alongside the campaign, local GP surgeries were encouraged to create displays in their waiting rooms to raise awareness amongst patients, with a prize hamper on offer for the best display.

The winning display, chosen by a Merton CCG panel, was created by Lynn Ellwood, Patient Services Coordinator at Cricket Green Medical Practice in Mitcham (pictured).

A formal evaluation of the campaign has been undertaken and results will be published later this year. Informal feedback from Merton pharmacists shows a mixed picture. For example, the pharmacy next door to the practice is finding that they are getting fewer returned waste medicines. However, at nearby Fairgreen Pharmacy in Mitcham, more medicines are being brought back for disposal (see picture) which could be the result of patients checking their stocks at home.

The campaign has increased awareness about medicines waste at care and nursing homes in the borough whose responsibility it is to ensure residents' medicines are managed properly.

However, there is still a long way to go. Sandip Patel, Superintendent Pharmacist at Fairgreen Pharmacy in Mitcham, explained that one of way tackling this is for the pharmacist to double check when repeat prescriptions are presented, that patients are only requesting what they need. 

Once a prescription is dispensed and leaves the pharmacy premises, even if it is unopened, it cannot be taken back and re-dispensed, but has to be disposed of safely by the pharmacy.​

Around half of the UK population do not take or use their medicines as prescribed. This can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • patients not believing the medicine is necessary

  • possible side effects

  • difficulty with taking/ using medicines  or fitting them into daily routines

  • patients feeling they are taking too many medicines

  • patients cutting down or stopping medicines they have been taking for a long time

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Photograph: Cricket Green Medical Practice in Mitcham wins a prize hamper for creating the best information display about wasted medicines. Pictured: Sedina Agama, Merton CCG's Chief Pharmacist and Assistant Director –Medicines Optimisation  (centre) presents the hamper to Lynn Ellwood, Patient Services Coordinator (left) and Practice Manager Gill Frost​