NHS England is consulting on limiting the prescription of certain medicines that are available over the counter. The move would free up £136 million to spend on frontline care and treatments for major conditions such as cancer and mental health. It would also mean a consistent, national framework for Clinical Commissioning Groups to use.
The proposals are to stop routine prescribing for products that are available over the counter that:
- Have low clinical effectiveness for example probiotics or vitamins and minerals;
- Treat a condition that is considered to be self-limiting and does not need treatment as it will heal of its own accord such as a sore throat or cough;
- Treat a condition that could be managed by self-care such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and pain relief. Advice could be sought from a Pharmacist rather than going to a GP.
Some of the items can be purchased at a lower cost over the counter than if prescribed by a GP or NHS professional.
The prescribing of items for longer term or more complex conditions or where minor illnesses are symptomatic or a side effect of something more serious are not affected.
NHS England and NHS Clinical Commissioners have worked closely with GPs,Pharmacists and patient groups to produce the list of conditions for which prescribing could be restricted and where exceptions may apply.
- Acute sore throat;
- Cold sores;
- Coughs, colds and nasal congestion;
- Infrequent migraines;
- Insect bites and stings;
- Mild to moderate hay fever;
- Nappy rash;
- Travel sickness and
- Warts and verrucae
You can find out more about the conditions, exceptions and take part in the consultation at www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/over-the-counter-items-not-routinely-prescribed/
The consultation is open until 14th March 2018.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Where patients can afford to buy medication over the counter, we would certainly encourage them to do so. There are also many minor, self-limiting conditions for which patients don’t often need to seek medical assistance, or prescribed medication, and can dealt with through self-care.
She continued: “What remains is that no blanket bans are imposed and GPs will retain the right to make clinical decisions about prescribing appropriately for our patients based on the unique physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health.”
NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, said: “To do the best for our patients and for taxpayers it’s vital the NHS uses its funding well. This consultation gives the public the opportunity to help family doctors decide how best to deploy precious NHS resources, freeing-up money from the drugs bill to reinvest in modern treatments for major conditions such as cancer, mental health and emergency care.”
Each year the NHS spends:
- £4.5 million on dandruff shampoos – enough to fund a further 4,700 cataract operations or 1,200 hip replacements every year.
- £7.5 million on indigestion and heartburn – enough to fund nearly 300 community nurses.
- £5.5 million on mouth ulcers – enough to fund around 1,500 hip replacements.
If patients were to self-care for these three conditions alone, it would save the NHS £17.5 million allowing funds to be diverted to other areas.