NHS England recently carried out a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for minor, short-term health concerns.
In the year prior to June 2017, the NHS spent approximately £569 million on prescriptions for medicines which can be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy and other outlets such as supermarkets.
These prescriptions include items for a condition:
- That is considered to be self-limiting and so does not need treatment as it will heal of its own accord;
- Which lends itself to self-care, i.e. that the person suffering does not normally need to seek medical care but may decide to seek help with symptom relief from a local pharmacy and use an over the counter medicine.
Vitamins/minerals and probiotics have also been included in the consultation proposals as items of limited clinical effectiveness which are of high cost to the NHS.
NHS England partnered with NHS Clinical Commissioners to carry out a consultation after CCGs asked for a nationally co-ordinated approach to the development of commissioning guidance in this area to ensure consistency and address unwarranted variation. Conditions for which over the counter items should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: Guidance for CCGs aims to provide a consistent, national framework for CCGs to use. A series of implementation tools to support CCGs are also available.