Prescribing of over the counter medicines is changing

Morecambe Bay CCG is to follow new guidance from NHS England, which aims to free up almost £100 million nationally for front line care each year, by significantly reducing prescriptions for ‘over the counter’ medicines such as those for indigestion and hayfever.

The new guidance was issued by NHS England following the results of a public consultation on the prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for minor, short-term health concerns. By decreasing routine prescribing for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long-term effect on health, vital funds will be freed up for frontline care.

The guidance does not affect prescribing of over the counter items for longer term or more complex conditions or where minor illnesses are as a result or side effect of something more serious.

The NHS in Morecambe Bay each year spends:

  • £111,000 on acute pain and headaches
  • £42,000 on hayfever
  • £10,000 on diarrhoea

Other over-the-counter products currently prescribed include remedies for dandruff, indigestion, mouth ulcers and travel sickness. Each year the NHS spends £4.5 million on dandruff shampoos, £7.5 million on indigestion and heartburn, and £5.5 million on mouth ulcers.

Dr Geoff Jolliffe, Barrow GP and Clinical Chair for Morecambe Bay CCG, said “It is not a good use of our resources to issue prescriptions for products which are not clinically effective, or for conditions that will get better without treatment or whose symptoms can be managed with self-care. As we have limited resources, we need to ensure patients get the best possible care against a backdrop of increasing demands, competing priorities and limited financial resources

“We realise 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 those that provide the best outcomes for patients”.

The full NHS England guidance and feedback from the consultation is available here https://www.england.nhs.uk/medicines/conditions-for-which-over-the-counter-items-should-not-routinely-be-prescribed/