Improving medicines use and reducing waste: an action plan

The next steps for the NHS to reduce avoidable waste of medicines, and optimise their use, have been set out in ‘Improving the use of medicines for better outcomes and reduced waste: An action plan‘, a report commissioned by the Department of Health that looks at how professionals, patients and the public can all contribute. It looks at primary and community care, secondary care, care homes, and end-of life care.

The report opens by highlighting the scale of the financial challenge facing the NHS, which will mean that medicines wastage continues to be a hot topic for some time to come. Engaging patients with decision making, and good information about medicines, will be important in optimising medicines use. The NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for taking forward the many recommendations in the plan, including ones that cover:

  • repeat prescribing: for example, ensuring that repeat prescribing does not cause medicines waste, practice-based pharmacists identifying patients on repeat prescriptions for medicines they no longer need, resolving software issues for non-medical prescribers.
  • GP practices concentrating efforts on patients with complex, multiple long-term conditions to help them take their medicines effectively, and the possibility of community pharmacy targeting medicines use reviews at this group investigated.
  • measures to make effective use of patients’ medicines in hospital, looking at transfers, communications, discharge and systems and processes within hospitals.