WASTE medication costs the NHS in Gwent £4 million a year – enough to pay for 157 more nurses, or more than 1,000 hip replacements.

The figures have been released to mark the beginning on Monday of a campaign to reduce unnecessary medicine waste, with patients asked to take a leading role.

They are being encouraged to only order what they need, to return unwanted medicines to their pharmacy for safe disposal, and to take their medicines with them when they go into hospital.

The campaign is Waleswide, but waste medication is a UK issue. It is estimated that at any one time, £90 million worth of unused prescription medicines are retained in people’s homes.

A big concern is repeat prescriptions ordered and collected by patients but not used.

Around half of all patients do not take or use medicines as prescribed.

Reasons can include patients not believing the medicine is necessary; possible side effects; fitting the taking or using of medicines into daily routines; choosing between medicines if patients feel they are taking too many; cutting down or stopping medicines they have been taking for a long time.

GP and pharmacists will take an active role in the campaign, to help patients understand more about their medicines and the options they have.

“Whether we are a patient or a healthcare professional involved in prescribing, dispensing or reviewing medicines, we can all play our part,” said Jonathan Simms, clinical director of pharmacy at Aneurin Bevan Health Board.

“Unwanted medicines in the home may mean patients are not getting the benefit they could. We want patients on repeat prescriptions to think about what they are ordering and only ask for what they need and are running out of.”

Alway Pharmacy in Newport is among more than 100 across Gwent displaying posters and leaflets to raise awareness of medicine waste.

Along with other pharmacies it collects waste medicines for removal and safe disposal and a single bin can contain thousands of pounds worth of items.

A browse through one revealed a wide range of medication, from inhalers to diabetes treatments and nicotine replacement patches.

GP surgeries will also display poster and leaflets, and there will be an advertising campaign on buses.

For more information, visit www.medicinewaste.com