NHS England has launched a consultation which proposes to rein in prescriptions for some ‘over the counter’ products such as dandruff shampoo and drops for tired eyes, diverting up to £136 million into frontline care.
The consultation will not affect prescribing of items for chronic (long term) conditions or where minor illnesses are symptomatic or a side effect of something more serious.
The full consultation document gives further information about the list of 33 minor illnesses which has been identified by a national joint clinical working group which are either self-limiting or suitable for self-care.
Ending routine prescribing for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long term effect on health, could free up funds for frontline care.
Over the counter products currently prescribed include remedies for dandruff, indigestion, mouth ulcers and travel sickness. The NHS each year spends:
- £4.5m on dandruff shampoos – enough to fund a further 4,700 cataract operations or 1,200 hip replacements every year.
- £7.5m on indigestion and heartburn – enough to fund nearly 300 community nurses.
- £5.5m on mouth ulcers – enough to fund around 1,500 hip replacements.
If patients were to self-care for these three conditions alone, it would save the NHS £17.5 million allowing funds to be diverted to other areas.