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Prescribing of medicines for minor conditions

Is the NHS prescribing of medicines for minor conditions that are low cost and readily available over the counter, necessary?

NHS East Lancashire CCG is launching a campaign to raise public awareness and encourage self-care when an NHS prescription is unnecessary. This will include encouraging members of the public to think carefully about going to the doctor to obtain NHS prescriptions of some items which are readily and cheaply available from pharmacies and supermarkets such as pain relief, indigestion medication, head lice treatments and anti-histamines. This is particularly important as pressure and demand on the NHS is so great at the moment.

NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) continuously reviews the services it commissions or “buys” to ensure that the local health budget is spent as effectively as possible. The CCG like other public bodies, has a finite budget. There are limits to what we can spend the money on. The NHS is funded by the Government from our taxes, and we want to use this money wisely. We wish to spend this funding on medicine and treatments that we know are effective and for treatments and medicines for more serious illnesses and conditions.

The CCG currently spends approximately £625,000 each quarter (every three months) on prescriptions to treat common conditions which are readily available from pharmacies and supermarkets. This amounts to about £2.5 million, each year. It is estimated that nearly 40% of these prescriptions are an unnecessary cost to the NHS locally. This amounts to approximately £1million of NHS funds, spent unnecessarily each year on commonly available medication that doesn’t need a prescription.

Examples of medicines that are widely available and which do not require a prescription include:

• Simple pain killers
• Pain relief gels, creams and sprays
• Antihistamine tablets, capsules and liquids
• Nasal sprays for allergy
• Vitamins, minerals and health supplements
• Toothpastes, mouthwashes and mouth gels
• Sore throat and mouth ulcer products
• Nasal decongestant sprays, tablets and capsules
• Sun protection creams, lotions and sprays
• Warts and verruca treatments
• Antiperspirants
• Cosmetic moisturisers
• Cough syrups, linctus and mixtures
• Ear wax removers
• Athletes foot treatment
• Cold sore treatment
• Thrush treatment
• Indigestion / heartburn relievers

NHS East Lancashire CCG is engaging with the public to see what your views are about this issue, so we can consider whether we should stop the availability of NHS prescriptions for minor ailments as these are readily available, and are often low cost and in many cases cheaper than an NHS prescription.

If you are a resident of East Lancashire (ie residents in Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribblesdale and Rossendale) or are registered with a GP in the borough, we would welcome your views on this matter. The survey is available online: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ELselfcare

or to obtain a questionnaire or simply let the CCG know what you think you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 01282 644627.


pdf Consultation on over the counter (OTC) products 14th August 2017 (274 KB)

pdf Graph of OTC self care prescribing (441 KB)

Is the NHS prescribing of medicines for minor conditions that are low cost and readily available over the counter, necessary?

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