Press release

Improving medicine use and cutting wastage to be tackled

A new group set up to tackle the £300 million being lost every year in the NHS due to medicine wastage.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new group set up to tackle the £300 million being lost every year in the NHS due to medicine wastage, at least half of which is avoidable, has been announced by Health Minister Lord Howe today.

With over 900 million prescription items dispensed last year and with more patients being treated at home or in the community for an ever wider range of conditions, it is vital that the NHS tackles unnecessary wastage. This will contribute to the support the Department is putting in place to help the NHS make up to £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015, whilst also driving up the quality of services.

On top of the £300 million lost in medicine wastage, the cost to the NHS of people not taking their medicines properly and not getting the full benefits to their health is estimated at over £500 million a year. The group will also identify how people can be better supported in taking their medicines as prescribed - helping to improve their long-term health outcomes and ensuring better value for the NHS.
The Steering Group to Improve the Use of Medicines will be made up of experts and patients representatives and will initially report in early 2012. The group will be jointly chaired by Robert Johnstone, a Trustee of National Voices and Rob Darracott, Chief Executive of Pharmacy Voice.

Health Minister Lord Howe said:

“We want to look at how patients can make the most of the medicines they take. This isn’t just about saving money - most importantly, it is about making sure that patients stay well and get the best outcomes from their medicines.

“Our plans for the NHS will give more frontline staff the power to innovate and deliver services that best meet the needs of their patients. Sharing decision making with patients about their medicine use - ‘no decision about me without me’ - will help improve their health outcomes, reduce future demands on the service, as well as reduce medicine wastage.

“Every pound wasted is a pound that could be spent on treating patients.  By reducing medicine wastage the NHS will save money that can be spent in other areas of patient care.”
Rob Darracott, Chief Executive of Pharmacy Voice and Co-Chair, said:

“There are lots of good ideas around for how health professionals can provide better support for patients and the public to help them use their medicines more effectively. What the NHS needs now is a real plan for embedding those ideas in systems that historically have been more concerned with the product than the person. As well as incentivising professionals to provide the direct support for medicines in use, that improves outcomes for patients and ensures the NHS gets best value from its investment in medicines.”
Robert Johnstone, Trustee of National Voices and Co-Chair said:

“We want to ensure patients are fully informed about their treatment options and involved as equals in a shared decision making process so that there are better decisions and improved use of medicines. Managing repeat prescribing better and providing patients with adequate and appropriate information should help to improve health outcomes and additionally reduce wastage of medicines.”
To coincide with the announcement of this steering group, the Department has also today published Making Best Use of Medicines, a report of a roundtable event held at the King’s Fund earlier this year. The event followed the publication in November 2010 of the research report The Evaluation of the Scale, Causes and Cost of Medicines Wasted.

Notes for editors:
1. For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
2. In response to the National Audit Office’s 2007 report, Prescribing Costs In Primary Care, the Department commissioned the York Health Economics Consortium and the School of Pharmacy at the University of London to carry out research to determine the scale, causes and costs of waste medicines in England. The report, Evaluation of the Scale, Causes and Costs of Waste Medicines, was published in November 2010.

  1. Evaluation of the Scale, Causes and Costs of Waste Medicines report

  2. Following this, the Department facilitated a roundtable event hosted by the King’s Fund where representatives of patients, health professionals, the NHS and industry were invited to consider the findings of the research and identify practical next steps that might be taken to help reduce waste, optimise medicine taking and improve health outcomes.  The report, Making Best Use of Medicines, coming out of this event.

  3. The 2011/12 financial year is the first year of delivery for QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention) plans. These are working at a national and regional level to redesign services to drive up quality while reducing cost. Nationally there are a number of workstreams including Medicines Use and Procurement, which is working to improve prescribing in primary and secondary care and ensure that patients derive the maximum benefit from their prescriptions.

  4. Robert Johnstone FRSA
    Is a trustee of National Voices.  He also advises on disability/access issues and is Vice Chair of Access Matters;  Chair of ASSIST UK; Director of Midstream, a training and employment provider for disabled people; Trustee of the International Alliance of Patients Organisations (IAPO); and Board Member on the European Patients Forum & Policy Advisory Group.

  5. Rob Darracott.
    After an early career as a hospital pharmacist, a journalist with Chemist & Druggist and four years in the Department of Health, Rob Darracott joined Moss Chemists in 1995 to establish and lead the company’s first national professional development team.  He was a member of Alliance UniChem’s European business development team that launched businesses in Holland in 2000 and Norway in 2001.  Rob was Director of Corporate & Strategic Development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society between 2003 and 2007, when he joined the Company Chemists Association, the trade association of national pharmacy groups, as its Chief Executive.  For the past year he has also led Pharmacy Voice, the new joint representative body created by the CCA, the NPA and AIMp. Of topical interest, while at Moss he was a member of the research team on whose work the New Medicines Service is, in part, based.

Published 8 August 2011