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Green bags for meds save waste and reduce carbon  

Organisation: Primary Care
Location: Sussex 

Circular Economy

What's the idea?

Wasted prescriptions are a ‘hidden' financial and environmental burden on our NHS. A large percentage of pharmaceuticals given out in primary care are never used, or partially used – while the reasons for this are varied the fact remains that this needs to be addressed.  

The green bag project aims simply to encourage people to carry their prescription drugs with them when they go to hospital. Patients are given a green bag by their GP or community nurse, and they use this for medications, carrying it with them to appointments or visits to hospital. This is a simple action that reaps multiple benefits: 

  • Reduction of waste from re-dispensing medicines unnecessarily 
  • Reduction of prescribing errors and missed doses 
  • A speedier admissions and discharge process 
  • Improved communication between the different professionals involved in one person's care 
Pharmacy bag with medication next to it on table

Impact of the project

Money saving

Avoiding the resupply of medicines could save in Sussex alone more than £50,000 per year
Money stacks with greenery growing out of the top

Reduced pharma waste

With more than 20% of patients across the UK coming into hospital now using a Green Bag for their medicines
Stacks of medication boxes on shelves

How you could implement a similar idea

If you would be interested in starting up the Green Bag scheme, talk to your pharmacy lead to see how to get the ball rolling. 

To work best a joined up approach across Primary Care, ambulance services and acute care is helpful.

Resources to get you started

There are lots of other NHS partners around the UK now using the Green Bag scheme, check out https://www.wihb.scot.nhs.uk/lets-talk-medicines-the-green-bag-scheme/ to see how it works elsewhere.  

This National Library of Medicine article is also a useful overview of the scheme: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616769/ 

What else can I do?

Already got an idea?