NHS officials vote to cut prescriptions for common over-the-counter remedies
Prescriptions for some “over the counter” remedies such as paracetamol and cold treatments have been cut after NHS officials voted in favour of money-saving plans.
Cough mixture, eye drops, laxatives and sun creams are among the products that will no longer be routinely prescribed, following an NHS England board meeting on Thursday.
The proposals to rein in prescriptions for medicines for minor conditions, which the NHS said will save millions of pounds every year, received “broad support” in a public consultation, members heard.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Across the NHS our aim is to: ‘Think like a patient, act like a taxpayer’.
“The NHS is probably the most efficient health service in the world, but we’re determined to keep pushing further.
“Every pound we save from cutting waste is another pound we can then invest in better A&E care, new cancer treatments and much better mental health services.”
More than 60% of respondents to the consultation agreed that over-the-counter products should not be prescribed for a range of minor conditions, board papers show.
The changes will not affect prescriptions for long-term or complex conditions, or where minor illnesses are a symptom of something more serious.
Vulnerable patients will also continue to receive prescriptions for over-the-counter items, provided they are proven to be effective.
Treatments for constipation, cold sores, conjunctivitis, mild indigestion, dandruff, haemorrhoids, infant colic, minor burns and scalds and minor pain conditions such as headache and backache are among those which will not be routinely prescribed.
Remedies for mouth ulcers, nappy rash, ringworm, athlete’s foot, head lice, mild toothache, travel sickness, and warts and verrucae have also been dropped, as well as some vitamins and minerals.
Some of the products were available for purchase over the counter at a lower cost than that which would be incurred by the NHS.
NHS England said it spends £22.8 million every year on constipation treatment, £3 million on athlete’s foot and other fungal infections, and £4.5 million on dandruff shampoos.
The prescription changes could free up almost £100 million for the health service, the body added.
The move follows a vote in November to remove homeopathy, herbal remedies and supplements from the prescription list as part of a review of “wasteful” prescriptions.
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