NHS England to issue new guidance on low value prescription items

NHS England will be leading a review of low value prescription items from April 2017 and introducing new guidance for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), with a view to substantially saving NHS expenditure in this area. It follows extensive work by NHS Clinical Commissioners which identified significant areas where potential savings can be made, up to potentially £400m per year.

They have requested that NHS England now set out a national approach that would, following consultation, be adopted by individual CCGs across England. The review will seek to address the growing concern over the justification for many low value prescriptions which absorb millions of NHS funding every year, that could be spent on care which has a bigger impact on improving outcomes for patients.

NHS England will work with clinicians and clinical commissioning groups to develop guidelines initially around a set of 10 medicines which are ineffective, unnecessary, inappropriate for prescription on the NHS, or indeed unsafe, and that together cost the NHS £128m per year.  In developing the guidance, the views of  patient groups, clinicians, commissioners and providers across the NHS will be sought.

In light of the financial challenges faced by  the NHS, further work will consider other medicines which are of relatively low clinical value or priority or are readily available ‘over the counter’ and in some instances, at far lower cost, such as treatment for coughs and colds, antihistamines, indigestion and heartburn medication and suncream. Guidance will support CCGs in making decisions locally about what is prescribed on the NHS.

Careful consideration will also be given to ensure that particular groups of people are not disproportionately affected, and that principles of best practice clinical prescribing are followed.

An NHS England spokesperson: “New guidelines will advise CCGs on the commissioning of medicines generally assessed as low priority and will provide support to clinical commissioning groups, prescribers and dispensers. The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions, underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources, whilst eliminating wastage and improving patient outcomes.