Meducate – get smarter with medicines

In partnership with Healthwatch Kent, Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG and Swale CCG have drawn on feedback from patients and clinicians to create the Meducate campaign., which aims to raise awareness of how we could all make better use of medicines in our area and support NHS services in north Kent.

The messages are simple, but often overlooked.

If we overuse antibiotics when we don’t need them, they can affect the body’s ability to fight off future infections, and more awareness about medicines waste is needed, using resources wisely and only ordering the prescription medicines we need.

Diar Fattah, Lead Pharmacist at Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG, explains: “Antibiotics only work on certain bacterial infections, and NOT on viruses like colds and flu. It is important to avoid requesting antibiotics to treat colds and flu as antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of the body’s immune system if used too often. More widely, consistent overuse can also cause bacteria to become more resistant to medicines and harder to combat with antibiotics in the future.”

“If your GP does need to prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial infection, make sure you follow the doctor’s instructions carefully and take the recommended dose, right through until you have finished the full course of medication. It is also important that any leftover tablets are not given to family and friends, but disposed of safely.

“It is worth remembering that your local pharmacist is a medicines expert who can advise on most common health issues, and tell you which treatments are available to buy. They usually have private areas if you wish to talk to them confidentially and can see you without an appointment.”

“Many common ailments don’t need prescription medicines. Your local pharmacist is a medicines expert who can advise on the best way to treat hay fever, sunburn, insect bites, colds, coughs, sore throats, verrucas, skin irritations, digestive problems and more.”

Healthwatch Kent’s Steve Inett said: “We hear directly from patients every day. Many of them are passionate about supporting our NHS.  A great way you can help is to think twice before you use a prescription for medicines that could be bought cheaper elsewhere. Lots of medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and cold remedies are much cheaper from a pharmacy. The money you save could be used for other NHS services such as more doctors and nurses.”

On average, it is estimated that around £2.6million (the equivalent of the cost to the NHS for around 60,000 GP appointments, or approximately 100 extra nurses) is prescribed to patients in north Kent for common ailments that may not need prescription medicines. Items including normal dosage paracetamol and ibuprofen are readily available at very low cost via local pharmacies and supermarkets.

Dr Elizabeth Lunt, a local GP, says: “It’s great to be prepared and order your medicines in plenty of time to ensure you don’t run out, especially over bank holiday periods – but remember that your prescription medicines are tailored to you, and repeat prescriptions should only be requested as and when needed and not stockpiled in large amounts for a rainy day.

“Any medicines that are not used, or past their use-by date are unsafe to take and cannot be recycled or given to someone else – so they often end up in the waste bin. It is estimated that this could be costing the local NHS around £2.7million per year in north Kent, which could be better spent in providing more healthcare services for local patients.

“Make sure you check your repeat prescription form and only tick the boxes for the medicines you need. If in any doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist who can help you to understand your medicines and manage them to get the best results for you. Many GP surgeries offer an online repeat prescription service, which can make it easy to keep track of the medicines you have ordered. Please check your medicine order is correct prior to leaving the pharmacy, as once medicines have left the pharmacy they cannot be reused.”

For more information visit www.meducatenhs.uk, or for specific medicines advice talk to your local pharmacist or GP.