§ Ms Rosie Winterton
For the financial year 2001–02, the amount of each presrciption charge was £6.10.
§ David Davis
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the estimated cost of wastage caused by patients returning unused presrciption medicine to chemists was in the last year for which figures are available; and what steps the Department is taking to reduce such wastage.
§ Ms Rosie Winterton
While the Department regularly obtains information on the extent of local national health service schemes for the collection and disposal of unwanted medicines, and these are available across the country, this does not include the cost of medicines returned. The latest estimate is that unused medicines returned to pharmacies are probably worth £100 million per year.
The Department is concerned about the wastage of unused medicines and has introduced a number of initiatives to address this. These include the medicines management collaborative schemes that demonstrate innovation and good practice in medicines management. Reducing the volume of unwanted medicines is one of the local objectives being pursued by some of the primary care trusts (PCTs) participating in the programme.139W
Repeat dispensing makes it possible for patients to get their repeat medicines for up to a year from their community pharmacy without having to contact their general practitioner's surgery. At each repeat dispensing episode, the community pharmacist checks that the medicines are still needed and being used appropriately by the patient. The first wave of 30 pathfinder sites is now under way, with another fifty or so coming on stream early next year, ahead of national roll-out by end of 2004. Evidence from previous pilot studies has shown that repeat dispensing helps reduce waste.
We are funding a joint task force, based at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, to lead implementation of a national strategy to spread better understanding of and partnerships between patients and health professionals on taking their medicines. This will promote the benefits of helping patients to take a more active role in managing their own care.
In the Government statement of 17 July on the proposed framework for a new community pharmacy contract, available at www.doh.gov.uk/pharmacyframework, it was highlighted that disposal of medicines was expected to form one of the essential services normally provided by all NHS pharmacies. Discussions on this front continue with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and the NHS confederation. We aim to start implementing from April 2004.
Modernising hospital pharmacy services, where patients can now continue to use their medicines when admitted to hospital, together with dispensing medicines at the outset sufficient for discharge, has also been shown to reduce waste.