latest health care news

04.04.18

CCGs told to curb OTC prescriptions in bid to save £100m

NHS England has published guidance to save almost £100m by reducing the number of prescriptions for ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC) medicines.

The organisation says that by reducing prescriptions for medicines for minor short-term conditions, such as constipation or athletes foot, almost £100m could be diverted to frontline care.

Each year the NHS spends £22.8m on constipation, for example – enough to fund 900 community nurses. Fungal infections, such as athletes foot, cost the NHS £3m, which could pay for 810 hip operations, while the £2.8m spent on diarrhoea treatments could finance almost 3,000 cataract operations. Remedies for dandruff, indigestion and mouth ulcers are also prescribed at a total cost of £17.5m.

The new guidance aims to curb the routine prescribing of products for self-limiting conditions that will clear up without treatment, and conditions that can be treated with self-care, such as OTC items from the pharmacy.

Prescribing of OTC items for longer-term or more complex conditions, or where minor illnesses are symptomatic or a side effect of something more serious, will not be affected.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, explained: “Across the NHS our aim is to ‘think like a patient, act like a taxpayer’.

“The NHS is probably the most efficient health service in the world, but we’re determined to keep pushing further. Every pound we save from cutting waste is another pound we can then invest in better A&E care, new cancer treatments and much better mental health services.”

Dr Graham Jackson, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners and clinical chair of Aylesbury Vale CCG, added: “Unfortunately the NHS does not have unlimited resources and ensuring patients get the best possible care against a backdrop of spiralling demands, competing priorities and increasing financial pressures is one of the biggest issues CCGs face.

“It is not good use of the NHS’s limited resources to issue prescriptions for products which are not clinically effective, or for conditions that will get better without treatment or whose symptoms can be managed with appropriate self-care.”

Jackson acknowledged that it may be difficult for some patients who have previously been prescribed the products affected, but argued that it is “right that we prioritise our spending on those that provide the best outcomes” – with the new guidance providing “clear direction” to CCGs on where those priorities should be.

Top image: alvarez

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