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NRAs 2014: Healthcare Recycler of the Year

Winner: Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, King’s Lynn

With the NHS facing financial challenges as never before, it is looking hard at minimising waste to reduce costs. Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, King’s Lynn has tackled the issue of drugs returned to its pharmacy after they have been dispensed or distributed to wards and clinical areas which have to be disposed of.

Medicines are returned for a number of reasons, including: being dispensed for inpatients and not being required for discharge; not being transferred with the patient when they move from one clinical area to the next; drug regimens changing when a treatment plan is altered; a patient’s own medicines not being returned to them or medicines being returned to the pharmacy when no longer needed.

“This is a common sense and revolutionary solution to a thorny problem in the health sector. It also addressed a significant cost challenge by focusing on reuse, and it oers strong opportunity for replication.”

The Judges

The hospital pharmacy department put in place the dedicated resource of a pharmacy assistant to ensure that there were systems in place to reduce the wastage of returned medicines.

The pharmacy has set up processes to ensure the reuse or recycling of medicines that have never left the hospital, having been returned from wards and other clinical areas. These medicines are assessed by the pharmacy assistant, in line with a set of criteria for quality, to process what can be recycled.

In the past 12 months, the medicines recycling programme has achieved a saving of £380,000, which far outweighs the cost of employing a pharmacy assistant. The assistant is supported by the senior technician, and the work and process design have been reviewed for quality by the quality assurance pharmacist and the chief pharmacist.

The Finalists:

  • Highly Commended: Skanska & Barts Health - Waste Management

In the first two years of its programme, Skanska’s facilities services, which manages the waste disposal service for Barts Health NHS Trust, carried out more than 100,000 individual bin audits, delivered training to 5,000 NHS employees, diverted 4,000 tonnes of waste from landfill, baled and commoditised 200 tonnes of cardboard for recycling, decreased clinical waste by 20%, and improved recycling rates by 384%. In doing so, it delivered financial savings of more than £700,000.

  • Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Betts Envirometal
  • Air Ambulance Service Trading
  • Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust


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