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Prescribing restrictions supported in East Lancashire

Plans to restrict prescribing of treatments and medicines for short-term, minor conditions have been supported by patients and clinicians across East Lancashire.

Earlier this year, NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) began an engagement exercise with local patients and members of the public, on proposals to stop prescribing treatments and medicines for short-term, minor conditions or where there is insufficient evidence that they improve symptoms or where they aren’t value for money.

Following overwhelming support for these proposals the CCG has agreed to continue with plans to ensure that only treatments that are clinically effective and provide a clear health benefit to patients are prescribed on NHS prescriptions.

Currently the CCG spends around £2.5 million a year on prescriptions for medicines which are now widely available over the counter (in pharmacies or shops) at a low cost price or cheaper than an NHS prescription. It is estimated that nearly 40% of these prescriptions are an unnecessary cost to the NHS locally, amounting to approximately £1million of NHS funds which spent unnecessarily each year on commonly available medication that doesn’t need a prescription. These include items such as paracetamol, antihistamines, moisturisers and ear wax removers.

The CCG wants to encourage people to “self-care” — which means that people take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing where they can. For instance pharmacies are a good source of advice and support and can release GP time to treat people with more serious conditions.

Jackie Hanson, Chief Nurse and Deputy Chief Officer at East Lancashire CCG, said: “It is important that everyone using NHS service appreciates the pressures we face in securing high quality local health services whilst dealing with the growing demand and the associated cost. The outcome of our engagement was extremely positive and we are most confident that we have made the right decision and have the support of our local patients and members of the public.

“It is important to note that these restrictions are only in place for patients with short-term and minor medical ailments.”

Some of the feedback received from the public about the proposals includes comments such as:

• “This should have happened years ago. I wouldn't dream of asking my GP to prescribe any of these. The NHS has been abused for far too long. Unfortunately people will abuse the system if it lets them.”

• “Not getting prescriptions for these items will also cut numbers attending the Doctor or A&E for such items.”

• “I have a long term illness that requires regular medication - however I would not dream of going to my GP for medication for minor problems and have a well-stocked box of over-the-counter medication for that purpose.”

The plans come into effect from Sunday 1 October.

The report on the engagement process can be viewed on East Lancashire CCG website at http://eastlancsccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/completed-engagement/self-care-prescribing

Information about self-treating a range of common, minor ailments is available on line on the NHS Choices website – www.nhs.uk