NHS England has agreed plans to save hundreds of millions of pounds each year by recommending low value treatments, including fish oil, herbal remedies and homeopathy no longer be provided on the NHS, and launching a consultation on curbs to prescriptions for some ‘over the counter’ products such as paracetamol.
GPs issued 1.1 billion prescription items at a cost of £9.2 billion in 2015/16. The vast majority were appropriate but many were for medicines, products or treatments that do not require a prescription and can be purchased over the counter from pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, corner shops or other retailers in some cases at a much lower cost than the price paid by the NHS.
The NHS could save around £190 million a year by cutting such prescriptions for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long term effect on health.
Over the counter products currently prescribed include cough mixture and cold treatments, eye drops, laxatives and sun cream lotions. A detailed follow-up consultation on an initial list of conditions will be launched in the New Year.
This will also free up millions of GP appointments that are currently taken up with prescribing these medicines.
NHS England will now press ahead with guidance to GPs and CCGs to remove 18 ineffective, unsafe and low clinical value treatments, such as some dietary supplements herbal treatments and homeopathy, saving up to £141 million a year.
These savings form a key building block of the NHS’s 10 point efficiency plan contained in the Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View, published in March 2017. They will be redeployed into frontline patient care.
Non-urgent advice: Conditions affected by NHS prescription crackdown
Acute sore throat
Infrequent cold sores of the lip
Coughs and colds and nasal congestion
Cradle Cap (seborrhoeic dermatitis – infants)
Mild irritant dermatitis
Dry eyes/sore (tired) eyes
Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
Indigestion and heartburn
Insect bites and sting
Mild dry skin
Mild to moderate hay fever/seasonal rhinitis
Minor burns and scalds
Minor conditions associated with pain, discomfort and/fever. (e.g. aches and sprains, headache, period pain, back pain)
Prevention of dental caries
Warts and verruca