Medication

Our aims

  • Ensure the right medicines are used, at the right time, for the right patients
  • Reduce medicine waste
  • Make it easier to get prescribed medicine when it is needed

To be truly effective, medicines must be used properly and responsibly – from those that help get us better when we’re ill, to those that keep people with long-term conditions alive.

The East London Health & Care Partnership’s aim is to ensure the right people, get the right medicine at the right time. We don’t want people taking medicines they don’t need.

New medicines are being introduced all the time. This includes those available over the counter from pharmacists and supermarkets, as well as those only available on prescription.

GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals must have a good understanding of what medicines their patients are taking and what they can and cannot do. They also need to know the side effects of the medicines and how and when they should be taken.

Evidence from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society shows there is an urgent need to get the fundamentals of medicine use right.

For example:

  • Only 16 per cent of patients who are prescribed a new medicine take it as prescribed.
  • At least six per cent of emergency re-admissions are caused by avoidable adverse reactions to medicines.
  • It’s estimated at least £300m is wasted on medicines each year across England.

The overuse of anti-biotics is also something we need to get right. It is weakening their effectiveness and making them counterproductive. The World Health Organisation says resistance to antibiotics is one of the biggest threats to global health.

We will be improving education and information about medicines and encouraging people to become less dependent on them, including antibiotics.

There are alternative and often more effective ways to treat and prevent common ailments.

Taking regular Vitamin C and Zinc supplements, for instance, can prevent colds developing. If you do have a cold, steaming your nose and mouth for up to 15 minutes, four times a day, and drinking plenty of fluids, can alleviate the symptoms.

For people with long-term conditions, alternatives to medication can include following a particular healthy eating regime and an exercise programme.

An example is for those with high cholesterol. A diet rich in plant sterols and stanols, that block the body’s absorption of cholesterol, can avoid some people having to take drugs called statins. They are substances that are naturally found in small amounts in plants – in fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains. You can also buy spreads, cereals and yoghurt-style drinks which have been fortified with them. Regular exercise also helps and sometimes reduces the need for blood pressure medication.

Physical activity can also help with mental health conditions, such as depression, as can getting sufficient sleep and being more involved in communities to combat loneliness.
We also need to reduce the prescribing of medicines that are proven to have limited clinical value.

Around £3.8m is currently being spent on them every year in east London. It doesn’t just represent poor value for money – which could be better spent on other health and care services – the use of such medicines is not in the best interest of patients.

It is not always necessary to go to a GP for treatment for minor ailments, or for medication that can be bought over the counter in a pharmacy or shop without a prescription. A pharmacist can give advice for problems such as coughs, colds, fevers, hay fever and eye infections.

For those taking medication for a long term condition, your GP will regularly review what you are taking and adjust it as and when needed. If your surgery has a practice pharmacist you can ask them to check the medication too.

See our Better Care and Wellbeing in East London booklet to find out what we are doing to achieve our aims, what it means for local people and what you can do.