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Over The Counter Medicines

Your local NHS is proposing to no longer support the prescribing of medications for short-term and minor ailments

Every year, the NHS in Norfolk and Waveney spends more than £5 million on prescribing items for minor short-lived ailments such as paracetamol, remedies for indigestion or heartburn, allergy treatments, vitamin supplements and cream for dry skin.

In the NHS £5 million would buy:

  • 895 more hip and knee replacements
  • 4025 more hernia operations
  • 7005 more cataract operations
  • 2220 more heart attack treatments
  • 2165 more leukaemia treatments for acute myeloid

 These are the sort of ailments we think it is usually reasonable for people to 'self-care':

  • Treatment of acute pain, such as a headache
  • Management of coughs and colds
  • Reducing body temperature where this is a small increase in temperature
  • Treating one-off constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Treating minor abrasions or irritated skin
  • Minor allergic responses
  • Occurrences of head-lice infestation
  • Treatment of bouts of dyspepsia resulting from over-indulgence
  • Treatment of occasional vaginal thrush

Medicines to treat these are often available from shops or pharmacies and are not expensive.  You can see what should be kept in a household medicine cabinet at: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Pharmacy/Pages/Yourmedicinecabinet.aspx

When provided on prescription, they cost the NHS significantly more. This is partly because there’s much more to a prescription than just the cost of the medicines. The whole prescription journey generates costs for the NHS.

Issuing a prescription also involves:

  • GP time
  • Dispensers managing repeat prescriptions
  • A dispensing fee charged to the NHS
  • Processing at the prescriptions service in Newcastle

A significant proportion of GP appointments, GP practice and community pharmacy time is taken up in processing prescriptions for minor ailments. Currently around 20 per cent of a GP’s time and 40 per cent of their total consultations are used for minor ailments and common conditions at a cost of on average £2 billion per year to the NHS.

Reducing the number of GP consultations enables GPs to focus on caring for higher risk patients, such as those with complex needs, the very young and elderly, managing long-term conditions and providing new services.  However, if your GP thinks you need these items on prescription to help treat a long term condition – don’t worry as you will still be able to get them that way.


What can I do to help?

  • Don’t ask your GP for a prescription for a minor, short-term ailment
  • Ask your local pharmacist for advice
  • Keep your medicine cabinet at home well-stocked so you can treat common conditions and minor ailments quickly


Engagement on this topic has now closed.

Via a survey, we were interested to find out:

  • How would you be affected if you were asked to buy certain over the counter medicines, instead of requesting a prescription for some minor conditions?
  • How would this affect someone you know or someone you care for?
  • Are there any other Over the Counter items you think we should add to the list?
  • Is there anything else you would like to tell us about this?

A summary report of all the responses provided through the survey is available below.

It’s your NHS - please use it wisely!  #Selfcare


NHS England National Consultation

NHS England is launching a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for 33 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.

The consultation can be accessed here.