The attempt by the NHS to deliver £20bn worth of efficiency savings by 2015 is being supported by a Department of Health initiative to improve medicine use and reduce wastage.

A steering group, which will consist of experts and patient representatives and will initially report early next year, will advise how people can be supported in taking their medicine as intended to ensure better long-term health and better value for the NHS.

Health minister Lord Howe said: “We want to look at how patients can make the most of the medicines they take. This isn’t just about saving money - most importantly, it is about making sure that patients stay well and get the best outcomes from their medicines.

“Our plans for the NHS will give more frontline staff the power to innovate and deliver services that best meet the needs of their patients.

“Sharing decision making with patients about their medicine use - ‘no decision about me without me’ - will help improve their health outcomes, reduce future demands on the service, as well as reduce medicine wastage.

“Every pound wasted is a pound that could be spent on treating patients. By reducing medicine wastage the NHS will save money that can be spent in other areas of patient care.”

Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott, who will co-chair the steering group, added: “There are lots of good ideas around for how health professionals can provide better support for patients and the public to help them use their medicines more effectively.

“What the NHS needs now is a real plan for embedding those ideas in systems that historically have been more concerned with the product than the person.”