Changes to over-the-counter meds to help our NHS

Friday 31st August, 2018

We are asking local residents to help your NHS to free up millions of pounds for frontline services by buying your own medicines for short term ailments, over the counter at a pharmacy.

Many common ailments can be treated at home using medicines bought over the counter at a pharmacy – you don’t need a prescription. It’s easier, quicker, cheaper.

As a result, we are urging people to help the local NHS by buying some medicines from their local pharmacy or as part of their basic household grocery shop, and using them to self-treat minor illnesses rather than seeking a prescription through a GP appointment.

New national guidance is now being implemented across Coastal West Sussex which will stop the prescriptions of many over the counter medicines, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The facts

Every year in Sussex and East Surrey we spend more than £10 million prescribing medicines and products that are easily available to buy over the counter.

A pack of painkillers costs around 30p from a pharmacy, whereas the cost to the NHS is more than £35 (when all costs are included).

It costs the NHS much more to prescribe these drugs than it does for an individual to buy them.

By encouraging more people to self-care and buy over the counter medicines such as paracetamols and antihistamines, we will have more money to spend on nurses, cancer treatments and GP services.

Every £1million saved on these types of prescriptions could instead fund around:

  • 39 community nurses
  • 270 hip replacements
  • 66 treatments for breast cancer

The types of medicines we are talking about its treatment for:

  • travel sickness
  • hayfever and other allergies
  • indigestion or upset stomach
  • pain and fever
  • dry skin
  • coughs, colds and sore throats

For all of these, pharmacists can assess your symptoms, advise you on how to care for yourself and help you buy the medicine you need.

You don’t need an appointment and many pharmacies are open late and at weekends.

This call to help the local NHS comes as nationally new guidance has been issued to CCGs about which over the counter medicines should not routinely be prescribed by GPs for short-term minor ailments.

The guidance was issued in April and stops the use of prescriptions for many over the counter medicines unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The guidance curbs the routine prescribing of products that are for:

  • A self-limiting condition, which does not require any medical advice or treatment as it will clear up on its own, such as sore throats, coughs and colds
  • A condition that is suitable for self-care, which can be treated with items that can easily be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy, such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and warts and verrucae.

A leaflet for patients about changes to the prescribing of medicines which are available over-the-counter is available, along with an easy-read version of the same leaflet

Importantly, GPs will still be able to prescribe these medicines in exceptional circumstances, such as when patients are experiencing long-term or more complex conditions.

In addition, for patients where the clinician considers that their ability to self-manage is compromised as a consequence of medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability; these patients will continue to receive prescriptions for over the counter items subject to the item being clinically effective.

We hope that people will support this change and work with us to #HelpMyNHS

The national consultation