Waste not want not
Continuing the quest to improve all our systems during COVID-19, we've overhauled our repeat prescriptions and lined everything up to a trimmed-down short back and sides one month at a time. "What?!" I hear you say, "but prescription charges are an eye-watering £9!" Yup that's right. So we have to carefully balance this with a few other pesky issues that have recently reared their unwelcome and ugly heads.
Firstly during COVID-19 we've seen a startling amount of stockpiling, and requests for medicines that people haven’t used for decades emerging from the woodwork, (yes, no reason for it to be in bold other than that I'd never imagined typing it in a sustainable healthcare blog *shrugs*) leading to raising of eyebrows (mine) and scratching of heads (Dr Alex Beach). Stock shortages occurred for some medicines, such as HRT, as those of you who've scoured pharmacies across York will confirm. Additionally, we've noticed a lot of wastage, especially since (gasp) unwanted medicines cannot be reused in the NHS, and even unopened boxes can't be returned to stock if they've left the pharmacy premises. Yes this sounds crazy. But, sigh, these are just The Rules.
Putting aside the fact that wasted medication costs the NHS £300 million a year (and that’s just from GP-land!), I'm also all over this monthly-prescribing from an environmental point of view. Yes some conditions absolutely require medication to replace a key element that's missing and there's no other way to source it, such as insulin in diabetes, and thyroxine in hypothyroidism. But you'll know already that we're promoting the importance of lifestyle in pretty much every health condition you can name. Someone quizzed me about this recently. And lost. Check out some fantastic resources online to learn more about how delicious meals can help your health. And I'm not just talking about low fat diet for weight loss. Go on, you might even find a way to zhuzh up that sad-looking jacket potato lurking in the salad drawer.
We're also doing more medication reviews, and this has been greatly aided by the newest edition to our fantastic team, pharmacist Ellie Forkin. These reviews are really important and usually take place just once a year, when we check all your medications are, well, doing what they should be doing, that you're taking the most effective dose, not struggling with any side effects, and that you haven't got any questions or concerns about them, or need a blood test. It would be highly irresponsible of us to prescribe potentially harmful medicines simply because we've "heard good stories" about them. Ahem. Luckily for our patients, we try and use scientifically-reviewed evidence to guide how we treat all the conditions and difficulties our patients encounter, rather than relying on hearsay and social media tittle tattle.
Let's continue our merry journey to wade through the stagnating pools of 'medicines compliance' and 'polypharmacy'. Mentioning these to any GP will cause a level of excitement akin to lauding your purchase of the last remaining bag of flour as you saunter back past the socially distanced supermarket queue. Did you know that the more medicines you take, the higher your chance of falling over? Seriously. This may sound amusing, but it's a very real and serious problem for many patients who already have osteoporosis, joint problems, or chronic pain that affects their mobility. Did you also know that many people on calcium supplements (like Calceos or Adcal) don't like the taste and therefore don't take them regularly? Did you know that patients on 3-monthly B12 injections can, instead of worrying about how safe it is to come into contact with a healthcare provider for a routine injection, be switched temporarily over to daily tablets until lockdown is over? Then we can re-open all our routine appointment slots, head to beach en masse, and arrange huge picnic parties in the park. Oh wait, people have already started doing the last two. I'll move on...
So what can you do to help? Well comrades, please don't order medication until the week before you need it. Please look after your medication! Treat it like a genuine £9 and keep it safe and in a sensible place out of reach of tiny hands or paws. Finally, before you bid us a cheery 'adieu!' and skip out onto the village street clutching your prescription bag like a Woolworth's pick-and-mix, please pause and open the bag before leaving the pharmacy (or our porch or hatch if you're lucky enough to have our Delia sorting you out from a pill point of view), run a beady eye over the box and check it's what you're expecting. And hey, why not ask for a side of fries - just to lighten the mood? Yum...