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Unused medicines costing NHS dear

Pharmacist Louise Morrison undertakes a medication review.

PEOPLE in Shetland on regular medication are being urged to take a fresh look at what they are taking as it was revealed that around £150,000 a year is being spent on unusued prescriptions.

Each month NHS Shetland collects unused medicines returned to community pharmacies and they are then shipped south for destruction.

The cost would be enough to pay for four nurses’ salaries – something the health service can scarcely afford at a time of severe constraints on public spending.

A local initiative has been launched to coincide with a national “Let’s Talk Medicines” campaign to ensure people on medication are getting the best possible care.

Islanders are being encouraged to look again at the medicines they take and speak to their pharmacist or GP if they have any questions or concerns.

NHS Shetland pharmacy director Chris Nicholson explained: “Many people may have been taking the same repeat prescription for a while and may be unsure how effective it is or even if the medicines are still required.

“We know many patients, especially those who are taking several different medicines, may be unsure why each medicine has been prescribed or how often they should be taking it.

“Others may experience side effects that they are worried about or have simply stopped taking certain medicines as they no longer think they need them or have just decided they do not want to take them, but have never mentioned this to their pharmacist or GP. Whatever the issue we want people to know that it’s always ok to ask.

NHS Shetland is spending around £150,000 a year on destroying unused prescriptions.

“Over the last few years clinical pharmacists, with GP colleagues, have put more emphasis on reviewing patient medications, however we are aware that there are many more patients in Shetland who are taking multiple medicines which would benefit from review.

“Carers who pick up prescriptions for a member of their family can also get advice from their pharmacist if they have any questions or concerns or to make sure that the patient is taking their medicines correctly. This is particularly important for older patients who are taking several medicines as it’s easy to get confused about how often they should be taking each one.”

Local pharmacist Louise Morrison, who worked in community pharmacy and is now involved in medicine reviews, said: “Many people will ask their community pharmacist for advice about medicines bought over the counter like common treatments for colds and flu, however they often don’t realise that they can also talk to their pharmacist about any prescription medication they are taking.

NHS Shetland medical director Roger Diggle said the campaigned encouraged people to make use of expert advice and information from GPs and local pharmacies.

“It also encourages people to take greater ownership, interest and responsibility for the medicines they take which supports the wider move towards greater self-management by helping patients become more informed about own health and treatment.

“This in turn will help improve the safety of patients by reducing many of the risks associated with not taking medication correctly as well as improving efficiency by reducing the number of prescriptions issued for medicines which may no longer be required.”