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For better health and social care

NHS to Cut Down on Prescriptions for Minor Conditions


NHS England has published guidance for local CCGs to free up to almost £100 million for front line care each year, by cutting back on the number of prescriptions for over the counter medicines for minor ailments and conditions. 

A minor or short-term condition is classed as one that will cure itself in time or cause no long-term damaging effects to health, such as sore throats, coughs and colds. The guidance will also apply to conditions that are suitable for self-care and that can be treated with medicine purchased directly from a pharmacy, such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and constipation. However, the new guidance will not affect prescriptions for more complex conditions, or minor illnesses that are symptomatic of something more serious.

Each year the NHS spends £22.8 million on constipation – enough to fund around 900 community nurses; £3 million on athletes foot and other fungal infections – enough to fund 810 hip operations; £2.8 million on Diarrhoea – enough to fund 2,912 cataract operations.

Some medicines can actually be purchased over the counter at a lower cost than when prescribed by a GP. For example, a pack of 12 anti-sickness tablets can be purchased for £2.18 from a pharmacy, whereas the cost to the NHS is over £3 after including dispensing fees, and over £35 when the GP consultation and other administration costs are included. Some common tablets are four times more expensive when provided on prescription by the NHS.

Dr Graham Jackson, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners said, “On a daily basis, CCGs are forced to make difficult decisions that balance the needs of the individual against those of the entire local population. We recognise that it may be difficult for some patients who have previously been prescribed these products, but it is right that we prioritise our spending on... the best outcomes for patients. This new guidance provides clear direction to CCGs on where those priorities should lie.”

Visit the NHS website for more information on the new guidelines and how you might be affected.