The destruction of wasted medicines is a huge problem within hospitals and is very costly to the NHS. Traditionally, unused medicines are sent by wards to the pharmacy department and placed in clinical waste bins for incineration. Sometimes medicines are saved for reuse, but because of lack of time and the use of robots that only take full packs, reuse is limited.
Medicines issued to inpatients that are no longer required by the ward are placed in a ‘return to pharmacy’ bin. The MMA visits the ward on a regular basis and empties the bin, sorting out waste medicines against agreed criteria for reuse. Suitable medicines are either returned to the pharmacy for reuse, sent to another ward to be kept as stock or placed in pharmacy-only cupboards/satellites to be dispensed by clinical teams at ward level. All waste is costed and details are recorded on a central database.
Medicines that are the patient’s own are not included in this scheme; these are used during their stay and returned to the patient on discharge. If the medicine is no longer required, it will be destroyed.