Prescription for harm and waste

The revelation on our front page today that more than £600,000 is squandered each year in the Borders though unused medicines is shocking.

Goodness knows, the NHS is hard-pressed enough without this unnecessary financial burden.

Perhaps the advent of universal free prescriptions in Scotland three years ago has made patients somewhat unappreciative of just how fortunate we are – those who live south or the border can only look on with envy as they fork out in excess of £8 for medicines.

But although prescriptions are free at the point of collection, this benefit comes with a hefty price tag somewhere down the line. The cost of funding this policy for 2011-12 has been estimated at about £57million.

There are some who argue that universal free prescriptions should be scrapped, with the savings being spent on other parts of our health service. Wasting cash on unused medicines will only serve to fuel this point of view.

A more serious aspect of this is the danger to patients caused by stockpiling.

As our report points out, this can mean doctors being unaware of who is actually taking what. NHS Borders bosses have highlighted how easy it is for medicines to mount up and, in the case of frail adults, there comes a point when too much can do more harm than good.

The time for a cure to combat this waste is long overdue.