General practice has the potential to make significant improvements to the environmental impact of healthcare in the UK in many areas, including in how we prescribe. You can see the wider range of actions we are taking to reduce our environmental impact here and you can see some suggestions about what patients can do here.
One area where we can make a difference is in how we prescribe and here we explain how:
Use of Inhalers
One of the areas we are committed to is reducing the environmental impact of inhaler use.
The most commonly used inhalers in the UK are called Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs). Their main ingredient is a hydrofluorocarbon gas, which helps deliver the medicine into your lungs. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are powerful greenhouse gases – thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. Your inhaler can have a big impact on your carbon footprint. The most commonly used inhaler in the UK, Ventolin Evohaler™ has a carbon footprint of 28kg per inhaler. That’s the same carbon footprint as driving 175miles (or from London to Sheffield) in a small car. Dry powder inhalers on the other hand typically have a carbon footprint of less than 1kg.
Things we are doing to try and minimise the environmental impact of inhaler use include:
- Ensuring correct diagnosis
- Maximising non drug treatments (for example, encouraging patients to stop smoking, increasing exercise etc)
- Where appropriate, prescribing dry powder inhalers (the diagram above illustrates the difference in the impact on the environment between a Metered Dose Inhaler - top - and the dry powder inhaler - bottom. More information on green inhalers is available here)
- Making every inhaler count, so where patients need to use a Metered Dose Inhaler, supporting them to ensure good technique is used and ensuring all doses in an inhaler are used
- Recycling inhalers (several pharmacies in Frome will take used inhalers from you for recycling - including St Aldhelm's, Boots and ASDA. All these pharmacies take part in the GSK Asthma Inhaler Recycling Scheme)
- Providing information to patients about managing their inhaler stock at home
Reducing Polypharmacy and Over Prescribing
We are working with patients to look at the range of medicines they take and to make changes to their prescribing if appopriate.
We will only reduce medications in the best interest of the patient and may also be able to promote other ways you can help manage your condition, for example through diet, exercise and support groups. Using other forms of support can help reduce the need for, or the amount of, medication prescribed - which is good for you and good for the planet.
Reducing Prescribing of Opiates
We are working with patients to review their opiod use and reduce where possible.
This includes providing patients with advice on how they manage pain. For example, patients may wish to download this leaflet about the steps they can take to manage pain.
Reducing Prescribing of Over The Counter Medicines
Your GP, nurse or pharmacist will not generally give you a prescription for over the counter medicines for a range of minor health concerns.
Find out more about why we are reducing prescribing of over the counter medicines here.