This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
It has been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted everyone globally, was declared by the World Health Organization. Amid the need for global recovery, it must be noted that ecological disruptions drive pandemic risks, and we are vulnerable to another health emergency if we do not act now to mitigate them. With our profession, we can start by reviewing existing policies and daily practices in a bid to help NHS England reach its net zero target.
A patient who receives 1 compliance aid every week will have disposed of 52 plastic containers per year. Some pharmacies have adopted the 2-tray recycling policy, whereby their delivery staff delivers a tray in exchange for the previous week’s to be brought back and refilled. If all pharmacies adopted this practice, it would prove financially beneficial and prevent production of vast volumes of unnecessary waste. It would be even better if patients with polypharmacy were to be receive regular pharmacist reviews, enabling deprescribing, where appropriate, to negate the need of said tray.
Why haven’t all pharmacies banned plastic bags and ordered enough paper bags for bulky repeat medications? We should be reviewing the habit of handing out plastic measuring cups, spoons and oral syringes each time by asking if the patient already has them at home. Most patients I have personally asked while handing out medications possessed their own measuring supplies at home. We should be switching all plastic measuring cups to paper versions used by nursing staff to dispense medications for our hospital inpatients.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is advocating for greener inhaler use as the propellant hydrofluorocarbons used in metered dose inhalers are powerful greenhouse gases. Given that many patients will achieve the same level of therapeutic benefit using dry powdered inhalers with appropriate counselling of techniques, we should be advocating for a greener formulary when initiating inhalers. Pharmacies should engage with available schemes to recycle medicinal items and promote the idea of circular economies within healthcare.
The process of making practices more sustainable will be disruptive and requires a change of behaviour from all service providers and users. It would be an honour for me to lead the sustainability workstream in RPS England and unite all sectors to work together promoting greener practices in the country.
Min Na Eii, election candidate, English pharmacy board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society