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The waiting game

At last, common sense prevails

Dr David Turner

At last, a nugget of common sense has emerged from the mind-numbing chaos of Covid-19.

A Department of Health and Social Care/NHS England guideline published on 14 April has stated, regarding the re-use of medications in nursing homes:

‘The re-use of medications may be appropriate in certain circumstances: When no other stocks of the medication are available, the benefits of using a medicine that is no longer needed by the person for whom it was originally prescribed or bought, outweigh any risks for an individual patient receiving unused medicine.’

I’m old enough to remember the days when patients and patients’ relatives returned unused medications to the GP surgery. It was not uncommon, before the days of regular medication reviews, after a patient had died, to end up with several black sacks full of unused and unopened medications, all in date, which would end up in the bin. This always seemed a monstrous waste to me.

The elderly treat steroid cream like gold paste

There was the other scenario, when a patient had walked out of the pharmacy, realised they had been dispensed the wrong pills and immediately turned around and went back in to the pharmacy to return it, only to be told that as it had been dispensed, despite the fact that was two minutes ago and the packet was unopened, the medication would have to go in the bin.

Unused medications cost the NHS around £300 million a year. Admittedly, those figures meant more when £300 million was a lot of money and not just the weekly bill for paper masks, but, nonetheless, it’s money that could go to better use.

The war-time generation has always understood the need to reduce waste. I’m always amused and delighted when an elderly person comes in for ‘some of this cream doctor’ only to reveal a five year out-of-date empty tube of steroid cream they have eked out to the last, presumably by treating it like gold paste.

If the post-Covid era leads to a greater valuing of resources by all of us, that won’t be a bad thing.

Dr David Turner is a GP in North West London

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Readers' comments (8)

  • Why do schools need to hold 2 epipens for each and every child who has anaphylaxis potential?

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  • Practices must opt-out of PCN-DES by 31.05.20. Breach consequences and workload dangerously hidden.

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    If we enter full blown apocalypse
    We may all get that sense of no waste maximal usage
    which the war era generations had

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  • Agree re epipens, surely much more economic and safer to have supply of devices always in date rather than go looking for a specific child's pen in an emergency. Costs over £50 per child.

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  • Angus Podgorny "Why do schools need to hold 2 epipens for each and every child who has anaphylaxis potential?"

    - Come on, think a little deeper. It's clearly because of the potential legal liability of not having 'redundancy', and being exposed to lawsuits that have an increased potential of 'vindictiveness', due to a lower economic cost as a result of legal aid (a left leaning policy).

    And on that subject, if you look at the history of how the drug policies re reuse were developed, David, you would know its because of a few cases of drug tampering. Now, obviously I don't like the wastage of taxpayer funds... so I'm not in favour of the current policies either. The only solution would seem to be to reduce the legal liability again, on the prescribers/dispensers... Are you going to shift over to the R and countenance reductions/restrictions on legal aid? I would love to have yous :)

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  • Thats right Chris. I forgot to mention that the Epipen thing was due to rampant left wing ideology.
    And don't get me started on those bastard left wing lawyers....

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  • nice trick, Angus, a fake misrepresentation/misunderstanding of my points. Or maybe, not fake...

    Well, the lawyers that benefit from a leftist policy, that is disguised under the mantra of "think of the poor unfortunates who can't afford expert legal advice", and who do so at the expense of the "whole", without speaking up, are "left wing". So do get started...

    Prove me wrong, that rampant legal action, isn't the reason that Doctors, civil servants, the armed forces, etc are practising defensively, and if you can't, that one of the reasons why, isn't the "easier" accessibility to expert legal advice...

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  • @Christopher Ho - no, you are absolutely right. Because it’s simple economics. People get a free chance to win the jackpot of a successful lawsuit, and lawyers get lots of lovely taxpayer money. Only people that lose out are GPs, who are forced to keep treating them no matter how often they get sued! Ker-ching!!

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