24/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 14:00

Are you willing to swallow a recycled pill?

Category: Health

Published: 2nd Mar 2012 03:20:45

The NHS needs to save £20bn, so making ends meet is going to be tricky and big changes will be needed.

In this week's Scrubbing Up, Dr David Pencheon, director of the national NHS Sustainable Development Unit, says recycling medicine could be part of the answer.

The cuts facing the NHS are like you or I losing around 20% of our salary over the next three years - while trying to lead the same sort of lifestyle.

We'd have to make some big changes. And that's exactly what the NHS will have to do, particularly if it wants to keep improving the quality of patient care.

So what can it do? One positive change is for the NHS to become more sustainable, not just financially but also environmentally.

It's not difficult to be sustainable. In fact, at home it's quite natural. We recycle, we don't leave the taps running needlessly, we don't leave the TV, radio and the lights on when we go to work, or even when we pop out to get the paper from the newsagents.

We also don't throw away a packet of headache pills just because they have been opened.

But yet, when we go to work it can be a different story, with lights left on, windows opened rather than thermostats turned down and medicines wasted and put in the bin.

NHS staff are no more wasteful than anybody else. But working in a high-pressure environment where lives can be on the line often means that waste isn't always at the top of the agenda.

Recently, we commissioned research looking at ways of saving carbon, as well as money, across the NHS in England.

Sustainability must become core to the way the NHS operates”

The results showed that energy efficiency with improved heating and lighting controls was one important way of saving cash, more than £7m a year.

However, the biggest financial and carbon savings came from reducing drugs wastage.

An estimated £300m of medicines are wasted each year in England, but around £89m could be saved by making a 2.5% reduction in medicines wastage.

That's a big saving. Of course we have to ensure the drugs are safe to be reused. But these problems can be solved.

The issue is not so much how we reuse drugs but rather whether the public want us to do it.

Are they willing to swallow the pill - in this instance a recycled pill?

When we polled 1,000 people, we found 52% would be likely to take pills that had been returned unused by other patients and checked for safety, while only 19% said they would be very unlikely to do so.

Combining financial sustainability with environmental sustainability is a win-win situation.

The carbon footprint of manufactured drugs, which are often shipped from the other side of the world, is huge - if these drugs can be recycled then so much the better.

In addition, medicines should be prescribed for shorter periods of times so people have fewer unused medicines in their cabinets, and we must put greater efforts into preventing illness rather than always worrying about curing it.

Most people prefer to be healthy and not have to go to hospital or see their GP.

So if the NHS spent more resources on illness prevention for diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease then less people would end up needing drugs.

That's better for the NHS and better for the public.

However, until we are in that position we need to consider other ways of making the NHS more sustainable.

The fact that the public are thinking more positively about recycling medicines should be welcomed. It shows that people have a great deal of faith in their health service, despite headlines to the contrary, and that they want to help the NHS become more cost effective and more sustainable.

Sustainability therefore must become core to the way the NHS operates and be part of every decision making process if it is to be truly fit for the future.

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Are you willing to swallow a recycled pill? [Online] (Updated 2nd Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1415304/Are-you-willing-to-swallow-a-recycled-pill [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Coronation Street star Barbara Knox denies drink-drive charge

    Coronation Street actress Barbara Knox has pleaded not guilty to drinking and driving.
  • Men arrested on suspicion of murder after Peterborough death

    Three men have been arrested on suspicion of murder after the death of a man at a flat in Peterborough.
  • Gun attack on house in west Belfast treated as hate crime

    Shots have been fired at a house in west Belfast in an incident being treated as a hate crime by police.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Unison ballot for strike action over 1% pay offer

    Public sector union Unison is to ballot local government workers and school staff in England for strikes after members rejected a 1% pay offer.
  • Abdullah Abdullah leads Afghanistan poll count

    Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah remains the frontrunner with 80% of votes counted, officials say.